Listen to the Jogis: Snake Charmers Speak for Snakes

Posted on January 25, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Environment
Total Views: 20366

Adil Najam

I saw this news item in Dawn (January 21, 2007) the other day and thought it was worth sharing with others. Who better than snake-charming jogis to speak on behalf of the dwindling population of snakes in Pakistan. For them, after all, this is not simply an ecological concern; it is a livelihood concern.

Of course, I have no way of confirming their estimates of the number of snakes and scorpions in Sindh, or the proclaimed medicinal benefits of these snakes. However, as someone whose professional training and work is in the area of environmental policy, I can attest to the fact that (a) the population of these species – especially in Sindh and Balochistan – has been dwindling, and (b) there is significant potential of biomedicinal benefits from biodiversity. The solution that the Jogis are suggesting is not bad either. Whether a new institution is needed or not (as a matter of principle I find it preferable to reform existing institutions rather than create new ones), it is clear that more emphasis on the conservation of these (and other species) is importance.

Personally, I do not, however, believe that any soup or concoction made of snake meat would help in the identification of snakes by those who consume it (this may actually be making the problem worse!). After all, I have been eating chicken for much of my life but am no expert in recognizing different types of roosters!

That being said, I do feel that on this issue we should listen carefully to what the jogis have to say; especially about these species going extinct and the need to do something to reverse the trend.
Here is the news item from Dawn:

HYDERABAD, Jan 20: Snake charmers called Jogis in Sindhi warned on Saturday that many rare species of snakes were fast becoming extinct in Sindh and demanded that the government should set up an institution to preserve and conduct research on the reptile. A group of Jogis said while addressing a press conference at the Hyderabad press club that the government should also establish an educational institution for them. Arjun, an expert on snakes, said that the snakes feed on meat, mud and milk and advised the government to set up an institution to preserve the snakes which were fast becoming extinct.

He said that the snakes’ venom and meat could cure many diseases such as tuberculosis and jaundice and disclosed that Jogis administered a soup prepared from snake meat to their children and believed the diet would help them tell one kind of snake from the other. He claimed that there were 900,000 snakes and 100 scorpions in the province. He said that the most famous specie of snakes were Umel Karo, Pandam, Karar and Lundi and among them Lundi was the most dangerous, which was found only in Sindh.

Mohammad Urs Behrani, Syed Mureed Ali Shah and Aslam Channa also addressed the conference. Jogis had brought with them some snakes, which were put on display in glass containers.

7 responses to “Listen to the Jogis: Snake Charmers Speak for Snakes”

  1. Daktar says:

    Didi not realize there was trade in these species. But as you say, its illegal. So should be checked if it is endangering the species.

    While teh cultural significance of the snake charmers is there, I do think that some of their practices, like teh snake soup, are harmful to the snakes and I am not sure about how effective their medical remedies are either.

  2. khalid says:

    I agree with snake charmers or Jogis that someone has to preserve this trade ( Snakes ) or otherwise it will extinct with other developments.Our government and other NGO’s are doing a lot for other wildlife which are in danger of being extinct and there are very good result so we should not forget these Snake charmers and their snake.This is very old profession in Sindh and are being passed on from generation to generation but looks like it will disappear soon.
    Thank you for putting this post.

  3. A. says:

    thank you, sir, for taking the time to answer. much appreciated. also interesting to gain some understanding of your approach to blogs,which I agree with. i think your views on their function are partly what make atp so varied & stimulating.


  4. Adil Najam says:

    [quote comment=”30989″]Why are the snakes going extinct? Is it too much soup being fed to little children? Is it some strange practice of poaching or hunting them for fun? I remain unclear on the causes…[/quote]

    I also hope it is not the soup that is doing so. My understadning – not specifically of Sindh snakes but generally of reptiles in the area – is that the principal causes are habitat loss and trade.

    As population increases and infrastructure develops, the habitat in which these species thrives is restrictied; competition increases both within the species and with other species (including humans); essentially, they get crowded out, run over, and sometimes eaten as soup!

    International trade in exotic species, although illegal, has also been going up significantly and people in Asia, Europe and South America have taken to exotic pets – including snakes and various types of lizards. I do not know about Sindh, but there are these species trade routes from Balochistan into Central Asia into Russia and beyond. The numbers are not big, there is little revenue brought in because it is illegal, but it can be devastating for endangered species.

    [quote comment=”30989″]this raises the question of how far blogs and cyber communities can really take us, when it comes to concrete issues that need to be addressed[/quote]

    I hope no one seriously thinks that blogs and other cyber platforms are a substitute for existing and more robust avenues for enquiry and action!

    They are not. Just as Wikepedia is an OK (not very good, but OK) place to start from but is not a substitute for real research, similarly blogs are, at best like newspapers (and not even that) and maybe conversations, that can highlight key issues and create awareness and a sometimes even spur a little action; but no more. They neither substitute nor replace other, existing, and often more robust avenues – such as peer reviewed research, policy advocacy, option innovation, social entrepreneurship, market restructuring, implemention projects, etc. Awareness always helps, in some cases (such as this) it is necessary, but it is never sufficient.

  5. A. says:

    Why are the snakes going extinct? Is it too much soup being fed to little children? Is it some strange practice of poaching or hunting them for fun? I remain unclear on the causes…

    Also, this raises the question of how far blogs and cyber communities can really take us, when it comes to concrete issues that need to be addressed in PK and elsewhere. I understand that they provide valuable forum to create awareness in/from…but if for instance the threat of extinction for these snakes is real and if you are yourself trained in environmental policy, does adding these two things and our awareness together make things better? This is an honest question (I have an academic curiosity about the effectiveness & effects of social discussion and debate that’s smth of a passive hobby right now). I would appreciate Adil’s views on this.

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