Police in Western India on Thursday said they had uncovered a snake venom smuggling racket after discovering 72 deadly snakes in an apartment.

A police team found 41 Russell’s vipers and 31 cobras in the house of the main accused in the Western City of Pune, a local police Chief, Santosh Gosavi, said.

“We were shocked to find dozens of these poisonous reptiles slithering around in gunny bags and wooden boxes,’’ said another police officer who was part of the raid.

The suspect was away but his wife and two daughters were in the adjoining room. The police evicted the family and called wildlife officials to rescue the reptiles the next day, he added.

The accused, identified as Ranjit Kharage, 37, and an alleged accomplice were subsequently arrested.

“Locals were rattled and scared that they gathered outside in the block to see wildlife teams extract the snakes from the flat.

He (Kharage) was carrying on the racket for three years and no one came to know of it,” Gosavi said.

Initial questioning revealed that the two used to buy snakes from snake catchers, extract the venom and sell or smuggle it and a case was filed against them under sections of India’s Wildlife Protection Act.

According to reports, Pharma firms buy snake venom to make antidotes and the venom is also used in party drugs and intoxicants.