On a Journey to Meet India's Snake Charmers

With owning a snake made illegal, a number of snake charmers live in fringe communities in India.
6:45 | 09/06/14

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Transcript for On a Journey to Meet India's Snake Charmers
Test Text1 underline Venomous vipers are rarely a welcome sight. But tonight, you're going to meet a group of people who claim they can handle it. Snake charmers appear to control cobras so deadly, that just one bite can be lethal. We sent our Gloria Riviera, to face her fears and find their secrets. Reporter: It was the snake that stalked Los Angeles. A killer albino cobra on the loose, terrifying neighbors. A terrifying experience. I think it's a cobra. Reporter: Its bite so deadly, it can kill within an hour. Last night, the snake finally captured. Where it came from, still a history. Hollywood has a long tradition of being afraid of snakes. From Indiana Jones' worst nightmare. Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes? Reporter: To the enemies that nearly finished Samuel Jackson off on "Snakes on a plane." We have to put a barrier between us and the snake. Reporter: Why on Earth would we travel all the way to India, to come face-to-face with this. A cobra so deadly, one bite and you're done. In India, snakes aren't reviled, they're revered. Icons in their religion. We're looking for their modern-day keepers, the charmers. Men able to hypetize these creatures in a dance. We're going to a snake charmer village. Their art, they're a marginalized community. Hi. Gloria. Hi. We meet shiva, a man helping snake charmers survive. Not easy. The wildlife protection act of 1972, banned owning a snake. Snake charming, viewed as inhumane. But he says the men he knows, treat the snakes like family. Before we go on, there's just one thing. Like indy, I also hate snakes. I told you it would be all right. Reporter: I need to be prepared for how big these things are. Which is a small problem because shiva is taking me to meet men who live with cobras. Getting on the motorcycle to head out and meet the snake charmers and the snakes. If you're in India, you have to ride on a motorcycle. Good idea. When we reach mondi, it's quiet. Almost deserted. This is an illegal community. They're not supposed to be here. But they have no other option. Nowhere to go. Like gypsies, snake charmers today live in fringe colonies. We're going to talk to one of the guys that agreed to show us. Thank you. We meet a snake charmer who tells us, god blessed his family with the ability to charm snakes. You're taking that out right now? He's taking the snake out right now. Should I stay right here? Me, now off the bed, he said he caught this one just ten days ago. He's been feeding it milk and chicken. He says cobras are actually quite shy animals. Only attacking when provoked. When they do bite, their fangs deliver a deadly toxin from their venom gland. Just then, unfazed, he says he has a medicine that neutralizes the poison. But I'm not so sure. The poison won't go inside your body. Reporter: Has he ever been bitten? So many times. Reporter: So many times you've been bitten? I wouldn't mind a stash of that medicine myself. But before I can ask, he proves his point. Oh. Definitely don't do that. Wow. Wow. Wow. Heading out to meet more snakes, great, I'm starting to wonder if there's more to this. Even the children here don't bat an eyelash. That's me hiding behind a toddler, we see what has captivated audiences for centuries. This killer cobra, swaying to the music, in a tranquil dance. Just briefly, I'm as beguiled as the snake swaying to music. That is, until I talk to this guy. The music is really for you. This is not -- Reporter: Wait a minute. What? Turns out cobras are essentially deaf. Snake charming, a sham. And the pipe is to get the snake to look up. Reporter: This is the co-founder of wildlife S.O.S. He's been rallying against snake charmers for years. It's not the music, he says. Look at his knee. Can you see his knee moving? That's what is keeping the snake engrossed. Reporter: And that deadly venom, not so much. Right there, the venom is gone? Absolutely. Reporter: Wish I had known that earlier. They get bitten and they get killed. Reporter: Snake charmers remove the fangs and often, the venom glands. A painfully inprecise procedure that can kill the snake. You see that depression. That's where the venom gland would have kept it. No snake charmer will ever have a cobra that is not defanged. That does not have the venom glands intact. It does not happen. Reporter: As for the medicine the snake charmer claimed he had on-hand, he says that's highly unlikely. You look at this and in two seconds, you said this is not close to truth. Absolutely. Reporter: I was the most gullible tourist in deli. He tries to rescue as many cobras as he can, convincing some charmers to turn in their flutes and help him. In the village, shiva is trying to educate the next generation, so they have options. Reporter: Snakes are beautiful. And you're not afraid at all? I'm afraid. I'm afraid. For now, snake charming is still their family business. For "Nightline," Gloria Riviera. Congrats to Gloria for making

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