Indian Snake Charmers

Just got back from India, where I happened to take this picture:

Snake Charmers

My friends and I were at a tourist site near Jaipur at the time. When we came around the corner, these two guys opened their baskets and got in character.

Clearly, they were there to make money off tourists, but it made me wonder: how in the heck to they do that without anyone dying? My friend dropped his money mere inches from the snake, and then he reached down to move the bill (!) and the dudes didn’t even skip a beat. I would have expected them to tell him to stand back or warn him.

I think the snakes were real, but it looked odd that they kind of popped up immediately after the lids were removed (but then again, they might have liked the light).

Is there a way to defang a snake, either humanely or inhumanely?

Or was this the real deal?

Aren’t most of the cobras they use defanged?

I alluded to this possibility in the OP (penultimate line). Do you have an answer?

An anecdotal one. My understanding is many/most are crudely defanged ( by hacking out the fangs ) and thus don’t tend to last long as individual performers. Some performers will actually stitch the mouth closed except for a small opening for the tongue to flick out - these also won’t last too long ( though longer than you might think - snakes can go quite awhile between meals ).

However the above probably isn’t universal. Many snakes can be habituated to handling and that includes poisonous ones. I know a guy who had a very tame unaltered pet Red Diamondback Rattlesnake that he apparently ( per his far more cautious brother ) used to handle freehand on occasion. I don’t recommend it - it’s a pretty insane practice IMHO - I’ve been bitten by too many non-venomous snakes to ever risk it. And Mr. Pet Rattlesnake ended up with lengthy hospital stays by being too careless with other, less tame rattlers. But it can certainly be done.

No statistics on how many are altered vs. unaltered, though.

On checking, wikipedia, as per usual, has an article on the topic.

Yeah, most of them are defanged, and crudely at that. There are some protests against such actions in India, but since the snake charmers are a dying breed anyway, they don’t gather much support [my opinion]

Heard about the defanging from this guy

I’ll add to what others have mentioned. Most cobras you’ll see have been de-fanged by a crude operation, usually with a knife. The animals are for the most part, quite ill, and the majority do not survive long.

As to how they work: The cobras are deaf and are unable to hear the sound, what they ARE following is the back and forth motion which keeps them busy and does not allow them to focus in on a particular area to strike. Cobras also must strike at a downward angle once they’ve hooded up.

Yes. All snakes are deaf, though they can feel the vibrations of lower level tones. This is why the Sherlock Holmes story “The Speckled Band” is so bogus: the villain uses some kind of high-pitched sound to summon the snake.