United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Asian snake trade focus of discussions in China


Better scientific information and closer supervision of captive breeding facilities are crucial for addressing the conservation, sustainability and livelihood aspects of the Asian snake trade.

Those were among the key messages relayed by some 70 experts representing close to 20 governments and international organizations at a workshop in Guangzhou, China, last week.

The event was led by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - an international agreement which aims to ensure that trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The workshop followed celebrations held in Beijing last week to mark the 30th anniversary of China joining CITES.

The global trade in snakes involves a variety of species, which are taken from the wild and then bred in captivity. The unsustainable trade of some of these species, as well as the loss of snake habitats, have contributed to a significant decrease in certain populations.

The workshop brought together government experts, members of the CITES Animals Committee and organizations including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the China Wildlife Conservation Association and China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Participants focused primarily on the markets and commercial trade of snakes in East, South, and Southeast Asia.

'I welcome the results of the CITES Asian snake trade workshop which are a very positive step for the conservation and sustainable use of these species', said Carlos Ibero, interim chair of the CITES Animals Committee. 'I look forward to detailed discussion of the workshop recommendations at the 25th meeting of the CITES animals committee to be held in Geneva in July', he added.

One third of the 3,315 snake species recognised globally can be found in the regions covered by the workshop. Indonesia is home to 128 endemic snake species, followed by India with 112, China with 54, Papua New Guinea with 42, Sri Lanka with 41, and the Philippines with 32 species. CITES regulates trade in 130 snake species, 45 of which are found in range states in the Asian countries that attended the workshop.

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