A gentleman in Bombay told me that 50,000 people are killed in India every year by snakes and tigers, and his extraordinary statement was confirmed by several officials and others to whom I applied for information. They declared that only about one-half of the deaths from such causes were ever reported; that the government was endeavoring to secure more complete and exact returns, and was offering rewards for the destruction of reptiles and wild animals. Under instructions from Lord Curzon the authorities of the central government at Calcutta gave me the returns for British India for the ten years from 1892 to 1902, showing a total of 26,461 human beings and 88,019 cattle killed by snakes and wild animals during the fiscal year 1901-2. This does not include the mortality from these causes in the eighty-two native states which have one-third of the area and one fourth of the population of the empire. Nor does it include thousands of cases in the more remote portions of the country, which are never reported to the authorities. In these remote sections, vast areas of mountains, jungles and swamps, the danger from such causes is much greater and deaths are more frequent than in the thickly settled portions; so that my friend's estimate was not far out of the way.

The official statistics for British India only (the native states not included) for the ten years named are as follows:


                     Persons Cattle 
  1892 21,988 81,688 
  1893 24,016 90,253 
  1894 24,449 96,796 
  1895 25,190 100,107 
  1896 24,322 88,702 
  1897 25,242 84,187 
  1898 25,166 91,750 
  1899 27,585 98,687 
  1900 25,833 91,430 
  1901 26,461 88,019 
                     - - - - - - - - 
  Total ten years 250,252 907,619

Taking 1901 as a sample, I find that 1,171 persons were killed by tigers and 29,333 cattle; 635 persons and 37,473 cattle were killed by leopards; 403 human beings and 5,048 cattle were killed by wolves; 1,442 human beings and 9,123 cattle were killed by other wild animals, and 22,810 human beings and 5,002 cattle by snakes. This is about the average record for the ten years, although the number of persons killed by tigers in 1901-2 was considerably less than usual.

The largest sacrifice of life was in the Province of Bengal, of which Calcutta is the capital, and where the imperial authorities have immediate control of such affairs. The government offers a bounty of $1 for every snake skin, $5 for every tiger skin, and a corresponding amount for other animals. During 1901-2, 14,301 wild animals were reported killed and 96,953 persons received rewards. The number of snakes reported destroyed was 69,668 and 2,858 persons were rewarded. The total amount of rewards paid was $33,270, which is much below the average and the smallest amount reported for many years. During the last ten years the amount of rewards paid has averaged about $36,000 annually. The falling off in 1901-2 is due to the discovery that certain enterprising persons had gone into the business of breeding snakes for the reward, and had been collecting considerable sums from the government by that sort of fraud. Hereafter no one will be able to collect claims without showing satisfactory evidence that the snakes were actually wild when killed or captured. It is hardly necessary to say that no one has thus far been accused of breeding tigers for the bounty, although large numbers of natives are engaged in the business of capturing them for menageries and zoological gardens.

In the maharaja's park at Jeypore we saw a dozen or more splendid man-eating tigers, which, the keeper told us, had been captured recently only twelve miles from that city. His Highness keeps a staff of tiger hunters and catchers for amusement. He delights in shooting big game, and several times a year goes into the jungles with his native hunters and parties of friends and seldom returns without several fine skins to add to his collection. His tiger catchers remain in the woods all the time, and he has a pleasant way of presenting the animals they catch to friends in India, England and elsewhere. While we were in Jeypore I read in a newspaper that the Negus of Abyssinia had given Robert Skinner two fine lions to take home to President Roosevelt, and I am sure the maharaja of Jeypore would be very glad to add a couple of man-eating tigers if he were aware of Colonel Roosevelt's love for the animal kingdom. I intended to make a suggestion in that line to him, but there were so many other things to talk about that it slipped my mind.

The maharaja catches tigers in the orthodox way. He has cages of iron and the toughest kind of wood set upon wheels so that they can be hauled into the jungle by oxen. When they reach a suitable place the oxen are unhitched, the hunters conceal the wheels and other parts of the wagon with boughs and palm leaves. A sheep or a goat or some other animal is sacrificed and placed in the cage for bait and the door is rigged so that it will remain open in an inviting manner until the tiger enters and lifts the carcass from the lever. The instant he disturbs the bait heavy iron bars drop over the hole through which he entered and he is a prisoner at the mercy of his captors. Sometimes the scheme fails and the hunters lose their time and trouble and bait, but being men of experience in such affairs they generally know the proper place and the proper season to look for game. When the watchers notify them that the trap is occupied they come with oxen and haul it to town, where it is backed up against a permanent cage in the menagerie, the iron door is lifted, and the tiger is punched with iron bars until he accepts the quarters that have been provided for him, and becomes a prisoner for life.

It is a terrible thing when a hungry and ugly man-eater comes into a village, for the inhabitants are generally defenseless. They have no guns, because the government does not allow the natives to carry arms, and their only weapons are the implements of the farm. If they would clear out and scatter the number of victims would not be so large, but they usually keep together for mutual defense, and, as a consequence, the animal has them at his mercy. A man-eater that has once tasted human flesh is never satiated, and attacks one victim after another until he has made away with an entire village.

The danger from snakes and other poisonous reptiles is much greater than from tigers and other wild beasts, chiefly because snakes in India are sacred to the gods, and the government finds it an exceedingly delicate matter to handle the situation as the circumstances require. When a Hindu is bitten by a snake it is considered the act of a god, and the victim is honored rather than pitied. While his death is deplored, no doubt, he has been removed from an humble earthly sphere to a much more happy and honorable condition in the other world. Therefore, while it is scarcely true that the Hindus like to be killed by snake poison, they will do very little to protect themselves or cure the bites. Nor do they like to have the reptiles killed for fear of provoking the gods that look after them. The snake gods are numbered by hundreds of thousands, and shrines have been erected to them in every village and on every highway. If a pious Hindu peasant sees a snake he will seldom run from it, but will remain quiet and offer a prayer, and if it bites him and he dies, his heirs and relatives will erect a shrine to his memory. The honor of having a shrine erected to one's memory is highly appreciated. Hence death from snake poison is by no means the worst fate a Hindu can suffer. These facts indicate the difficulties the government officials meet in their endeavors to exterminate reptiles.

Snake charmers are found in every village. They are usually priests, monks or sorcerers, and may generally be seen in the neighborhood of Hindu temples and tombs. They carry from two to twenty hideous reptiles of all sizes in the folds of their robes, generally next to their naked bosoms, and when they see a chance of making a few coppers from a stranger they draw them out casually and play with them as if they were pets. Usually the fangs have been carefully extracted so that the snakes are really harmless. At the same time they are not agreeable companions. Sometimes snake charmers will allow their pets to bite them, and, when the blood appears upon the surface of the skin, they place lozenges of some black absorbent upon the wounds to suck up the blood and afterward sell them at high prices for charms and amulets.

When Mr. Henry Phipps of New York was in India he became very much interested in this subject. His sympathies were particularly excited by the number of poor people who died from snake bites and from the bites of wild animals, without medical attention. There is only one small Pasteur institute in India, and it is geographically situated so that it cannot be reached without several days' travel from those parts of the empire where snakes are most numerous and the mortality from animals is largest. With his usual modesty, without saying anything to anybody, Mr. Phipps placed $100,000 in the hands of Lord Curzon with a request that a hospital and Pasteur institute be established in southern India at the most accessible location that can be found for the treatment of such cases, and a laboratory established for original research to discover antidotes and remedies for animal poisons. After thorough investigation it was decided to locate the institute in the Province of Madras. The local government provided a site and takes charge of its maintenance, while the general government will pay an annual subsidy corresponding to the value of the services rendered to soldiers sent there for treatment.

While we were waiting at a railway station one morning a solemn-looking old man, who, from appearances, might have been a contemporary of Mahomet, or the nineteenth incarnation of a mighty god, squatted down on the floor and gazed upon us with a broad and benevolent smile. He touched his forehead respectfully and bowed several times, and then, having attracted attention and complied with the etiquette of his caste, drew from his breast a spry little sparrow that had been nestling between his cotton robe and his bare flesh. Stroking the bird affectionately and talking to it in some mysterious language, the old man looked up at us for approval and placed it upon the pavement. It greeted us cordially with several little chirps and hopped around over the stone to get the kinks out of its legs, while the old fakir drew from his breast a little package which he unfolded carefully and laid on the ground. It contained an assortment of very fine beads of different colors and made of glass. Taking a spool of thread from the folds of his robe, the old man broke off a piece about two feet long and, calling to the bird, began to whistle softly as his pet hopped over toward him. There was evidently a perfect understanding between them. The bird knew what was expected and proceeded immediately to business. It grasped the lower end of the thread in its little claws as its trainer held it suspended in the air with the other end wound around his forefinger, and swung back and forth, chirruping cheerfully. After swinging a little while it reached the top, and then stood proudly for a moment on the fakir's finger and acknowledged our applause. Then it climbed down again like a sailor or a monkey and dropped to the ground. I had never seen an exhibition so simple and yet unusual, but something even better was yet to come, for, in obedience to instruction, the little chap picked up the tiny beads one after another with his bill and strung them upon the thread, which it held with its tiny toes.