A young American is gaining fame among the people of Madras for his unusual occupation--Ramulus Whittaker is one of India's few snake farmers.
A young American is gaining fame among the people of Madras for his unusual occupation--Ramulus Whittaker is one of India's few snake farmers. And in a country which has one of the world's highest death rates from snake bite, Mr. Whittaker makes a profit from his farm.
Whittaker's snake farm is situated 15 miles (24 Kms) outside Madras. The farm contains more than three hundred snakes--cobras, krait, Russel vipers and Sawscale vipers, the four venomous varieties found in India.
Born in New York, Mr. Whittaker, aged 27, has been handling snakes for more than 20 years. He maintains that snakes are dangerous only if provoked, and are extremely beneficial.
The profit from the farm is made by the sale of venom. Crystallised venom is used in the manufacture of anti-venom. It also has growing use in medical research, particularly in the field of cancer. The snakes are 'milked' of venom each day, and the crystals are sold in India and abroad for between 100 and 1,000 rupees (between GBP5/10 and GBP51 Sterling) a gram.
Whittaker's work is now supported by a grant from the World Wildlife Fund, and his farm is one of the fund's major projects in Southern India.