Cashing in on the euphoria of China's Year of the Snake, farmers in Zhejiang province are minting money by selling millions of snakes as they form a part of exotic culinary besides being the main ingredient of traditional medicine.
Zhejiang villagers build a serpent industry with output reaching 60 million yuan (about USD 10 million) in 2012, media reports here said.
Sales of snake products increased by 10 per cent in 2012 compared to the previous year, Wen Aiguo, chairman of Wuyijun Biological Technology Co in East China's Fujian province, said.
Aiguo, who started the business in 1997, has developed a comprehensive snake industry chain, including raising snakes, processing byproducts and developing snake-themed tourism.
Snakes have also changed the life of Yang Hongchang, who is running a business worth tens of millions of yuan by raising more than 20,000 serpents in East China's Zhejiang province.
62-year-old Yang has been Dubbed as the snake king.
Some snakes, including highly poisonous vipers and cobras, are the source of medicine and food, while others form a part of the snake culture museum, state-run China Daily reported.
At Yang's snake farm, hundreds of the reptiles squirm in dry ponds prevented from escape by 0.8-meter-tall brick walls.
In 1985, Yang borrowed 10,000 yuan and started the then unprecedented experiment of breeding snakes in the courtyard of his house.
After initial failure, he eventually incubated about 30,000 snake eggs and sold baby snakes for more than 80,000 yuan in 1987.
"The news stirred the whole village," he recalled.
Inspired by Yang's success, more villagers invested in snake breeding. In 2012, 108 of the 160 families in the village were breeding snakes.
Most villagers have an annual income of 50,000 to 60,000 yuan and some earn hundreds of thousands of yuan, according to Yang Genmei, the village Party chief.
More than four million serpents are now bred in the 0.9-square-kilometre Zisiqiao village, earning it the reputation of China's No. 1 snake village.
In 2012, the annual production value of the snake village reached 60 million yuan and the profit of snake-made medicines increased 50 per cent compared to the previous year, Yang said.
In Guangdong province, snake soup and snake wine are often drunk to boost the immune system.
Poisonous snakes have higher economic value, according to Yang, because the venom is effective in curing certain cancers and can be made into anti-venomous serum.