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Wildlife laundering through breeding farms: Illegal harvest, population declines and a means of regulating the trade of green pythons ( Morelia viridis) from Indonesia

Authors
  • Lyons, Jessica A.
  • Natusch, Daniel J.D.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Biological Conservation
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2011
Accepted Date
Oct 01, 2011
Volume
144
Issue
12
Pages
3073–3081
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2011.10.002
Source
Elsevier
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Wildlife breeding farms have been promoted to aid biodiversity conservation by alleviating the pressure of harvest on wild populations. There is, however, growing concern that many breeding farms are being used to launder illegally caught wildlife. Surveys of wildlife traders in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku, West Papua and Papua were conducted between August 2009 and April 2011 to assess the trade of the green python ( Morelia viridis), the species currently exported in the largest numbers from Indonesia declared as captive-bred. In total, 4227 illegally collected wild green pythons were recorded during surveys and high levels of harvest were found to have depleted and skewed the demographics of some island populations. Snakes were traced from their point of capture to breeding farms in Jakarta where they are to be exported for the pet trade, confirming the reports of wildlife laundering. Extrapolation of monthly collection estimates provided by traders revealed that at least 5337 green pythons are collected each year, suggesting that at least 80% of the green pythons exported from Indonesia annually are illegally wild-caught. The results of examination of 139 eggshells from five python species suggest that reptilian eggshells may be used as proof of provenance for each individual reptile exported. This method, in addition to the evidence that breeding farms play a significant role in the illegal exploitation of wildlife, allows conservation managers to begin to adequately monitor, regulate and determine the role of breeding farms in the conservation of wild populations.

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