(April 5th, 1998)
Snakes move from dinner table to sporting ring
BAN KHOK SA-NGA, Thailand - To some people, the thought of touching a king cobra, let alone eating one, would be frightening.
Historically, the reptile's meat has been much sought after here in northeastern Thailand. But too many snakes were killed, and the king cobra population dwindled to near extinction.
The king cobra was put on Thailand's list of preserved species in 1992.
Now at least one village hopes that through its ingenuity and enterprise, that trend could be reversed with a sport called "snake boxing." Locals and visitors pay 25 cents each to watch a 10 minute performance in which a snake handler does battle with a king cobra.
"Before we used to travel around with the cobras, displaying them and selling them as medicine. But this year, a lot of visitors have been coming to the village. It's my life," said snake handler Buaree Khomsingh.