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Python skin origins unclear

Attendants remove pythons from their enclosures for routine cleaning at a snake farm
Attendants remove pythons from their enclosures for routine cleaning at a snake farm. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Python skin origins unclear

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Monday warned that allegedly farmed python skins originating from Cambodia could in fact have been harvested in the wild, and called for surveys to determine the scale and impact of possible python hunting in the Kingdom.

In a report on the sustainability of the python skin industry – which supplies manufacturers of luxury goods like handbags – the IUCN said that since it could not confirm the existence of any python farms in Cambodia, shipments identified as having been farmed, such as a reported shipment of 2,000 skins in the year 2000, should be viewed with a measure of scepticism.

“Python skin exports using a CITES source code ‘C’ from countries other than China, Thailand and Viet Nam (e.g., Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR and Malaysia) should be treated with caution until improved data on farms, management and monitoring systems are in place to verify captive production capacities,” the report reads.

“Field surveys should be considered in Viet Nam, and neighbouring countries (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Thailand), to determine if wild collection of pythons is still occurring, and if so, at what scale and impact to local populations,” it continues.

The report hypothesises that farmed skins being exported as originating in Vietnam could have been “sold across the porous border” by rumoured python farms in Cambodia.

The IUCN, however, has recently been unable to find any registered farms.

Nick Marx, director of wildlife rescue and care at Wildlife Alliance, said that he too had no knowledge of such farms in Cambodia, but was aware of python slaughterhouses.

And while he was not familiar with any trade in python hides, he added, legal enterprises that farm valuable animals are often “a smokescreen that disguises illegal trade in that species”.

“If you’ve got a farm, it’s easy to continue an illegal wildlife trade in that species, because they can say that it comes from the farm, when in fact it was harvested in the wild,” Marx said, noting that some consider such farms good for conservation “but in fact, it’s quite the opposite, unless the farms are very closely monitored”.

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