Snakes, Crocodiles and Purses

By encino - Posted on 24 August 2010

python sleeping

Things to do with snakes in Cambodia - Sleep on them.


Commercial trade is a major driver of the exploitation of wild species. In Cambodia you might not expect how this really works - the largest driver of snake exploitation is the domestic trade in snakes as crocodile food. It is estimated that farmed crocodiles consume between 2.7 and 12.2 million snakes per year. That's quite a big range, I guess it isn’t that easy to estimate such a thing.

And why are they farming crocodiles in Cambodia? Have you seen crocodile skin purses or boots? Well, that crocodile leather comes from somewhere. The market price for crocodiles has been in decline since 2003, which, combined with rising prices for their food, has led to a reduction in their feeding and the closure of some of the small farms. The large farms that generate a big amount of the demand for snakes continue to operate in anticipation of future market opportunities, and preferences for snakes could help maintain demand if market prices for crocodiles rise to the levels they were at in 2003 at the last peak. In the absence of a sustained demand from crocodile farms, it is also possible that alternative markets will develop, such as one for snakes as human snack food! The demand for snakes, however, also depends on the availability of substitute resources, principally fish. This shows how important the study of markets is to wildlife conservation and that it is necessary to have a look at the behavior of consumer demand prior to implementing regulations on wildlife hunting and trade.


snake chips

Fried Snake Snack


Perhaps you don't like snakes or you don't like possibility of a snake bite but they form a part of the ecosystem. You may not like rats either and if the snakes don't control the rodent population who will? Southeast Asia is probably the most snake diverse place on the planet. Owls are good rodent hunters but it isn't likely that they or other birds of prey would adapt to pick up the slack in Cambodia and anyway that would change the delicate balance of things there and beyond.


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