Chinese village bites into snake business

Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:51am EDT
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By Royston Chan and Aly Song

ZISIQIAO VILLAGE, China (Reuters Life!) - This sleepy village nestled in the heart of vast farmland in China's eastern Zhejiang province hides a deadly secret.

A step into the homes of any of the farming families here brings visitors eye-to-eye with thousands of some of the world's most feared creatures -- snakes, many of them poisonous.

Cobras, vipers and pythons are everywhere in Zisiqiao, aptly known as the snake village, where the reptiles are deliberately raised for use as food and in traditional medicine, bringing in millions of dollars to a village that otherwise would rely solely on farming.

"As the number one snake village in China, it's impossible for us to raise only one kind of snake," said Yang Hongchang, the 60-year-old farmer who introduced snake breeding to the village decades ago.

"We are researching many kinds of snakes and the methods of breeding them."

In 1985, Yang started selling snakes he caught around the area to animal vendors. He soon began to worry that the wild snakes would run out and thus began researching on how to breed snakes at home.

Within three years, he had made a fortune -- and many other villagers decided to emulate his success.

Today, more than three million snakes are bred in the village every year by the 160 farming families.   Continued...

<p>The decapitated head of a snake is seen at a snake farm in Zisiqiao village, Zhejiang province in this June 15, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Aly Song/Files</p>