China hosts crucial meeting on the future of Asian snakes


For use of the media only;
not an official document.


China hosts crucial meeting on the future of Asian snakes

International gathering tackles the conservation, sustainable use and livelihood aspects of snake trade


Participants at the CITES Asian Snake Trade Workshop, 11 April 2011, Guangzhou, China.

Guangzhou, 11 April 2011 – Some 70 experts representing close to 20 governments and international and national organizations are meeting in Guangzhou, China, from 11 to 14 April 2011, under the leadership of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). They will be considering the conservation priorities and management and enforcement needs related to the trade of snakes in Asia. The workshop follows 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 from many different countries, with specimens taken from the wild bred in captivity. The unsustainable use of some of these species as well as loss of their habitats, have contributed in certain cases to a significant decrease in their populations.

This technical workshop brings together government experts, members of the CITES Animals Committee and organizations including IUCN and several of its Species Survival Commission specialist groups, UNCTAD-BioTrade, the China Wildlife Conservation Association and China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Its geographical focus is on the markets and commercial trade originating in East, South, and Southeast Asia.

Of the 3,315 snake species globally recognized, one third occurs in this part of the world. Indonesia with 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 are among those countries with the highest number of endemic snakes. CITES regulates trade in 130 snake species, 45 of which are found in range States in the Asian countries attending this workshop.

Commenting on the importance of the meeting, Mr John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, stated that: "the global trade in snakes is an industry of considerable socio-economic importance for rural populations in several Asian countries. CITES is the main international tool to effectively regulate international snake trade in many of these species. The recommendations coming out of this meeting will be critical in addressing the wildlife conservation, sustainable use and livelihood aspects of such trade, and putting forward expert recommendations to CITES governing bodies for future directions."

"The harvesting of snakes, and in some cases the initial processing of their skins and other body parts, contributes important revenue to local communities in China and neighbouring countries. The Chinese Government pays great attention to achieving a harmonious balance between conservation and sustainable use of Asian snakes", declared Dr Su Chunyu, Executive Director General of the CITES Management Authority of China.

According to a wildlife trade policy review conducted in Viet Nam, the income from snake breeding is three to five times higher than the income generated by vegetable and crop cultivation, and dozens of times higher than the income from pig and cattle breeding.

Snakes play a vital role within their ecosystems. For example, if snakes were to disappear from the rice fields or other crop-producing landscapes of Asia, their prey, left behind with no predator to control their numbers, could have devastating effects on agricultural production, food security and national economies.

Snakes from the forests and jungles of Asia are consumed locally as well as in neighbouring countries for food, traditional medicines, skins, etc. But they are also sold as pets and found in expensive luxury leather goods and accessories, in the boutiques of Europe and North America. Their skins are often processed in various countries of re-export along the way.

Some examples of Asian snakes in trade (scientific name, common name, major exporters) from the CITES trade database:

Typical snakes

Ptyas mucosus (Oriental rat snake) - Indonesia (100% of global exports in this species)
Cerberus rhynchops (Dog-faced water snake) - Indonesia (89%), Thailand (11%)


Python breitensteini (Borneo short-tailed python) Indonesia (70%), Malaysia (30%)
Python brongersmai (Blood python) Malaysia (54%), Indonesia (46%)
Python curtus (Sumatran short-tailed python) Malaysia (71%), Indonesia (39%)
Python molurus bivittatus (Burmese python)Vietnam (99%)
Python reticulatus (Reticulated python)Malaysia (47%), Indonesia (42%), Vietnam (11%)


Naja sputatrix (Indonesian cobra) Indonesia (100%)

Note to journalists: The Secretary-General of CITES has been invited to an official reception hosted by the Government of China on the occasion of 30 years of CITES membership. The reception will take place at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, on 8 April 2011.

CITES was adopted in March, 1973, in Washington D.C., following a recommendation of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. It was the first Multilateral Environmental Agreement to enter into force in July 1975 and it assists China and another 174 countries that are Party to CITES to achieve sustainable development through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. 

For more information, contact Mr Juan Carlos Vasquez at +4179-552 27 32 (mobile), or [email protected]

See also:

Opening speech of Mr John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General at the CITES Asian Snake Trade Workshop


To read previous press releases, go to Archives.