Published 22 August 2022
Illegal snake trade a persistent threat in Southeast Asia
Snakes are very much a target of trafficking in Southeast Asia, shows TRAFFIC’s new factsheet, which calls attention to a high number of snakes and their parts in illegal trade.
Factsheet on Snake seizures in Southeast Asia
TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Office
Factsheet on Snake seizures in Southeast Asia from 2012-2021 recorded at least 292 seizure incidents from 2012 to 2021 resulting in the confiscation of at least 17,589 individual snakes and 76,476 whole skins, skin pieces and other parts across the region.
The findings highlight the persistent threat to wild snakes and make the case for stronger enforcement that must go hand in hand with improved regulation to stem trafficking.
More than half of the seizures of snakes and their parts were recorded in Indonesia and Viet Nam.
With 74,200 skins and skin pieces seized, pythons dominated, being the most frequently seized and accounting for the highest number seized. Venomous snakes also featured prominently with more than 14,000 cobras (Elapidae) and vipers (Viperidae) featured among the seized taxa.
More than 84% of all incidents included the seizure of whole snakes (live and dead), but skins were the most numerous individual item confiscated, comprising both skin pieces and whole skins.
“The covert nature of trafficking, the challenges of detecting wildlife crime and governments not always reporting successful enforcement means that the true extent of the illegal snake trade is likely to be far greater than those reflected by these seizure records alone.”
Ramacandra Wong, Senior Crime Analyst for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia
Snakes are in demand both live and for their parts and have long been traded globally. The level of protection and regulation for snakes in the region varies with some countries offering stronger regulation and protection from unsustainable collection and trade compared to others.
Snakes are popular as exotic pets; their skins are in demand in the fashion industry and other parts are used in traditional medicine.
“What is clear is that the illegal trade in snakes continues in Southeast Asia, even as doubts and questions on what is reportedly legal, demand attention. So, the region’s approach must be two-pronged - authorities must continue to tackle the trafficking while improving management and control of the legal trade in snakes to ensure it does not supply or drive the illicit trade,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s Director for Southeast Asia.
Governments are encouraged to establish trade and harvest quotas, based on scientifically robust and accurate data. Periodic inspections of captive-breeding facilities should also be done to verify sourcing, trade and legality.
Given the scale of illegal trade, private sector bodies involved in the snake trade are encouraged to be vigilant and not supply their businesses from illegal and unsustainable sources.
Consumers, meanwhile, are urged to make informed and responsible purchasing choices.
separate seizures involving snakes were rercorded
were the leading target species, with 74,200 skins and skin pieces seized
84% of all incidents
included seizures of whole snakes, both alive and dead
for more information:
Elizabeth John Senior Communications Officer, TRAFFIC
+60 3 7880 3940
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