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News updated at 1:59 PM IST

Snake skin fashion in Europe putting pythons at risk

New Delhi, Feb 24, 2013 (PTI) 10:31 IST
The famed pythons of southeast Asia are vanishing fast in view of the growing demand for their skin in the thriving fashion industry of Europe.

According to a study, population of these large bodied, non-venomous and strikingly coloured pythons is dwindling fast due to its trafficking for the European fashion industry.

"South-East Asian pythons are heavily exploited for skins, food and traditional Chinese medicines, with nearly half a million python skins alone exported annually ...around 96 per cent of the value of the trade is captured by the European fashion industry," says a technical paper prepared by International Trade Centre and TRAFFIC.

The paper titled "Trade in Southeast Asian Python Skins", says that illegal trade in python skins is occurring due to poor regulation or a lack of transparency throughout the trade chain.

"Demand in high-end markets (i.e. the EU) is for raw skins as European tanners can process to specific high quality requirements of the European fashion industry," it says.

According to the study, there is strong financial incentive for illegal trade in python skins. Hunters capture around 0.5 per cent of the final value of a high-end python skin handbag.

"The skin is sold by the collector to slaughterhouses for USD 10 per metre. Prices for finished leather handbags can reach USD 10,000, a product based on one 3 metre skin. The demand is highest for skins measuring 3 to 4 metres," says the paper.

The study recommends the fashion industry to encourage establishing "a traceability system complementing the existing CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permitting system to allow identification of skins along the length of the supply chain and assure the skins legal provenance and sustainable sourcing."

Nearly half a million python skins are reportedly exported from South-East Asia annually. Indonesia and Malaysia are the main source of pythons for the skin trade, most of which come from the wild.

The European Union currently has a ban in place on skins sourced from Malaysia. The Swiss Parliament voted in early 2012 to ban imports of python skins from Indonesia on the grounds of perceived cruelty during slaughter.

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