|A woman holds a snake for sale at a pet shop in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, in January. Provided to China Daily|
Zhou Qian was scared out of her wits when she found a snake in her 9-year-old son's pencil box.
"I was helping him arrange his textbooks when I suddenly noticed a colorful snake," said Zhou. "Though several days have passed, I still cannot accept the fact that a snake lives with me under the same roof."
However, Gao Yuan doesn't share his family's fear of his pet, which he purchased for 100 yuan ($16).
"The feeling when you touch the snake - cold and smooth - is very unusual and funny," he said.
"It eats little, makes no noise and keeps the room clean. It's perfect."
As the weather gets warmer in China's Year of the Snake, more people are choosing snakes, which are gradually waking up from hibernation, as their pets.
Xu Feng, who runs a pet shop in Nanjing's Qinhuai district, said his sales were 30 percent higher than any previous spring since he opened the store six years ago.
"Some people believe that raising a snake this year may bring good luck."
According to Xu, raising a snake is easy, and the equipment needed is simple.
"A box, usually made of wood, a lamp and a cushion to keep the heat are the basic requirements. Colorful pet snakes are normally of tropical origin, so they need to keep warm.
"Small pet snakes eat one or two mice a week," said Xu. "Large pet snakes may eat more than 20 mice a time. Each mouse costs about 2 yuan, which is much cheaper than dog or cat food."
Zhang Jingshuo, a zoologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that although pet snakes pose little danger to their owners, raising snakes at home is still not advisable.
"Although pet snakes have been domesticated for many years, it's possible that they still carry germs that may cause cross-infection between human beings and other animals.
"Besides, some pet snakes are caught illegally in the wild," said Zhang.
"If you buy those snakes, you are encouraging the poaching of wild animals."
He said that some snakes are abandoned when their owners find that they have grown too big, which may cause the problem of alien species invasion and panic among the public.
Xu added that people should think twice before they purchase snakes.
"People need to acquire certain knowledge to take good care of snakes, including how to wash them and where to buy medicine when they get sick. In fact they are not as strong as many people think.
"Also, people must do some research before they choose a certain kind of snake, and avoid believing whatever shopkeepers tell them," said Xu.
"If they get cheated by some immoral sellers about whether the snakes are poisonous or not, the result might be even worse."
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