T he Department of Forestry released 40 pythons back into the wild on Feb 8. The
slippery wrigglers, some more than two meters long, had been confiscated from
smugglers who were planning to ship them to Vietnam where a lucrative market
exists for both snake blood and meat.
Python skins are also prized for
making shoes, belts and other trendy gear.
While the pythons were
rescued, the snake smugglers, according to the department, managed to slither
away from the long arm of the law.
Pythons are found throughout Cambodia
and some are known to grow up to three meters long.
They survive on a
diet of rats, small birds, insects and, in some cases, have been known to eat
deer or baby bears. The cute, cuddly reptiles are not poisonous, rather killing
their prey by strangulation before devouring them whole for
One advisor to the Ministry of Environment said that Cambodian
pythons were being exported regularly to other countries in the region.
He cited a case in l991 when the Geneva-based Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) sent an inquiry to Phnom Penh
about a request from a Singaporean firm to import 9 kilometers of python skins.
The documents for the 3,000 plus skins named a Phnom Penh-based firm called Rose
of Koh Kong as the Cambodian exporter. While the documents proved to be fake,
authorities were unable to prevent the export of the skins.
pythons released on Tueesday were set free 45 kms south of the capital in an
area that is slated for designation as a wildlife refuge. Buddhist monks blessed
the snakes before they slithered into a swamp in an effort to protect the
pythons from being re-captured by local villagers who, it was said, might want
to eat them for dinner.