Trafficking Green Tree Pythons


Farm Bred (FB)

In West Papua it is legal to export green tree pythons if they are farm bred. Many “farms” exploit laws that allow exportation of green tree pythons. These “farms” pay locals to collect wild snakes, which are then kept at their facility for a period of time. Later, these animals are shipped as legal farm bred stock. Simply stated, most breeding farms in Indonesia launder illegally caught wildlife.
It is estimated that up to 80% of exported green tree pythons are illegally caught, and that 40% to 50 % will die before they get to market. Many that do survive will die a slow death due to a combination of stress, parasitism, and improper care by an unprepared buyer. Therefore, it is crucial to be well informed about the origins of an green tree python before purchasing it.

this is how wild caught green tree pythons are kept.

While many people look at imported or FB animals as a cheaper alternative, what advantage is truly gained? First, consider that most of these animals are illegally caught which jeopardizes species conservation efforts. Also, many imported / farm bred animals have visible injuries and/or scars from being caught, being kept at holding facilities, or from being shipped in bulk in poor conditions. While many injuries are cosmetic (cuts, kinked spines), some may require medical attention (broken ribs, abscesses). However, below the surface is where greater issues lie. The most common internal ailments are subdermal parasites, intestinal parasites, and bacterial respiratory infections. All of these conditions will require medical intervention by your veterinarian.

Another big concern with unreliably sourced FB green tree python is mites. Mites can spread really quickly and be a pain to get rid of. And prolonged exposure to them can cause a lot of medical issues for your entire collection. But the most frustrating part about an imported/FB animal is that usually you get very little, if any, knowledgeable after sale support. So if an animal survives shipping, and responds well to medical treatment, there likely won’t be anyone to help out if it refuses to eat or has other issue. When starting out with chondros, unreliably sourced imports or farm bred chondros usually aren’t worth it.

This is how wild caught green tree pythons are kept and shipped.

Most Breeders feel that there are only a few reasons for purchasing imported/farm bred animals. Two examples are if a locality-type animal is unavailable in the captive market, or if a buyer is interested in adding “new,” unrelated blood to their breeding colony.

Remember how they get here!

Captive Bred (CB) 

This term probably seems like the best choice after reading about farm bred green tree pythons. But unfortunately it’s a label used very loosely in the pet trade. Usually a chondro that is labeled CB is really just farm bred or wild caught. Brokers and middlemen often use this term to misrepresent farm bred animals. But when pressed for more information they will give vague answers.

“The breeder wants to remain anonymous,” or “They are CB but I got them in a trade so I don’t have the information,” are answers that tell you the seller has no idea about an animal’s origin. These dealers are usually more interested in moving inventory than ensuring you’ll have success with the green tree python. If the seller can’t, or refuses to provide basic information on an animal’s origin then you have to assume it is either a farmed or wild caught import.

Don’t fall victim to the elusive tactics of brokers. Ask questions like:

Who was the breeder?

What was the hatch date?

Can I see pictures of the parents?

How long has it been in your care?

If these questions can’t be answered, the animal is likely farm bred or wild caught. Keep in mind this applies to both unchanged neonates, as well as adults. Green tree pythons shouldn’t be represented as something they aren’t. Knowledge is power so learn as much as you can because if you aren’t prepared, there are plenty of people who might try taking advantage of that.

CB green tree python is produced by a breeder who spends countless hours establishing babies, cleaning cages, raising future breeders, and maintaining a breeding colony in optimum conditions. Green Tree python breeders are devoted to their animals, and want to ensure they are sold to capable buyers who understand husbandry requirements. If you buy a CB neonate from a breeder, it will come to you virtually problem free. It will be healthy, eating regularly, and likely come with a pedigree or lineage chart. Most importantly, the breeder will provide after sale support to ensure your success.

If your first purchase is a sub-adult or adult green tree python, the above still applies. While you may not be purchasing it from the original breeder, it is likely to have been kept in appropriate conditions. Regardless of whether you are purchasing an unchanged neonate or an older animal, a seller’s CB claim should be supported with breeder information, hatch date, lineage charts and/or hatch certificates.

The above was taken from the MVF husbandry guides common Chondro labels section and below is an example of how these illegally collected animals are kept before being shipped out of the country that was shared with me by a friend. Make sure you do your homework with your purchase so you are not supporting inhumane and inhumane practices like this.

Often lauded as a model for conserving wild populations, breeding center’s in Indonesia are shown to be actually worsening depletion of wildlife. Green tree python Breeding farms in Indonesia are being used to launder illegally caught wildlife, finds a study published in the journal Biological Conservation.

The research is based on surveys of traders who supply the market for green pythons (Morelia viridis), a non-venomous snake popular in the pet trade for its many colour forms. The authors — Jessica Lyons and Daniel Natusch of the University of New South Wales — tracked pythons from their point of capture in Indonesian New Guinea and Maluku to breeding farms in Jakarta where the snakes are exported for the pet trade as “captive-bred”. They found that 80 percent of snakes exported annually from Indonesia are illegally wild-caught, revealing high levels of fraud in Indonesia’s reptile export market.

“Extrapolation of monthly collection estimates provided by traders revealed that at least 5337 green pythons are collected each year,” Lyons and Natusch write.

The results are significant because green pythons are currently Indonesia’s top export among snake species declared “captive-bred”. But the implications go beyond the credibility of Indonesia’s reptile export market.
For one, sourcing animals from the wild depletes location populations. According to the researchers, traders report declining abundance of adult snakes, indicating over-harvesting.
Furthermore wild-caught snakes do poorly, especially when trafficked over large distances from their habitats in Eastern Indonesia to the urban jungle of Jakarta.

“The general health of green tree pythons being traded was poor,” note the authors. “We observed hundreds of snakes that were malnourished, showing symptoms of disease and/or infection, or where dead.”

Trafficking in wild-caught snakes isn’t good for reptiles, nor is it good for the pet trade. Indeed the authors note a preference among reptile enthusiasts for captive-bred over wild-caught animals. Indonesian traders are therefore misleading their customers on the origins of green pythons.

“There are a number of dealers who knowingly import wild-caught green pythons and other species and sell them as captive-bred, relying on the difficulty of differentiating between the two in order to mislead unsuspecting buyers and enforcement authorities in both Indonesia and the importing countries,” write Lyons and Natusch. “It is also likely that other dealers are unaware they are receiving wild caught green tree pythons, relying on the word of the Indonesian exporter that they are captive-bred.”

To counter laundering of wildlife through breeding farms, the authors suggest a series of measures, including requiring breeders to offer proof in the form of egg shells for the snakes they sell; consumer education initiatives; better monitoring of farm owners; training programs for breeders; research into understanding the economics of reptile farming; and legalising limited harvest of wild pythons through a quota system. They note more research is needed to understand the market for snakes.

“The suitability and in fact feasibility of breeding farms for producing wildlife to alleviate harvest of wild animals needs to be re-evaluated,” they write. “It appears that breeding green pythons is currently not a cheaper alternative to laundering wild-caught animals and is therefore not fulfilling the conservation objectives that led to the establishment of farms in the first place.”

Lyons, J.A., Natusch, D.J.D. Wildlife laundering through breeding farms: Illegal harvest, population declines and a means of regulating the trade of green pythons (Morelia viridis) from Indonesia. Biol. Conserv. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.10.002