THAILAND
2002


"Siamese Crocodile"

The Reptile Raid

One morning my film crew, Tony Lynam from the Wildlife Conservation Society, and I joined four pick-up trucks of forestry department officers and a local television film crew, on a raid on an illegal reptile skin and meat factory on the outskirts of Bangkok.

When we arrived the officers surrounded the compound but there was a considerable delay whilst they struggled to find a key for the locked gate, until exasperated by the delay I scaled the wall and let them in from inside. This delay gave the occupants time to try and dispose of some of the reptiles - several bags of frozen and semi-thawed snakes were thrown over the walls into dense surrounding undergrowth. The Thai authorities arrested three Burmese, probabe illegals, but failed to capture anybody of importance on the premises.

We searched all the building and surounding and radually more and more reptiles and reptile body parts were found in this charnel house:

Water filled vats and barrels containing live and dead Buff-faced watersnakes (Homalopsis buccata).

Bags of dead snakes ranging from King cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) and Malayan blood pythons (Python brongersmai) to Banded kraits (Bungarus fasciatus), Thai cobras (Naja kaouthia and N.siamensis), Red-tailed racers (Gonyosoma oxycephalum), Beauty ratsnakes (Orthriophis taeniurus), and many other smaller racers, ratsnakes, pitvipers, watersnakes etc.

Huge numbers of salted skins from Puff-faced watersnakes (Homalopsis buccata) and also Burmese rock python (Python bivittatus), Reticulated python (Python reticulatus) and Indo-Malay water monitor lizards (Varanus salvator).

Racks containing clips and snake gall bladders to be sold for oriental tonics for virility and longevity.

A list of all species and numbers was compiled to be used by the Thai authorities in their prosecution of the reptile factory workers and hopefully the owners.

No Siamese crocodile body parts were found although many of the species represented were CITES listed endangered species.

Fortunately some live snakes were also located and these were rescued and were to be released in a local national park. These species are illustrated below.

 

Thanit Palasuwan, Chief of the Wildlife Protection Division (Central Region), Royal Thai Wildlife Dept., interviews one of the Burmese workers at the reptile factory

 

Mark delivers a 'piece to camera' surrounded by dead reptiles: including a
Malayan blood python
, Python brongersmai, and two King cobras, Ophiophagus hannah
Mark identifying live
Javan filesnakes
, Acrochordus javanicus
Mark removing live and dead
Puff-faced watersnakes, Homolopsis buccata
from vats and barrels
Indentifying dead snakes
Mark and Thanit Palasuwan with dead
King cobra
, Ophiophagus hannah
Mark & Tony Lynam with the skins of a
Burmese rock python
, Python bivittatus, and Reticulated python, Python reticulatus
Another dead
King cobra
, Ophiophagus hannah
Numerous dead ratsnakes and common cobras
A third
King cobra
, Ophiophagus hannah
Salted skins of Puff-faced watersnakes, Homolopsis buccata
A dead
King cobra
, Ophiophagus hannah
Three dead
Malayan blood python,
Python brongersmai
Hundreds of dead snakes spilled from the bags all requiring identification
Boxes of salted snake skins
and racks of snake gall bladders
A gall bladder rack
A dead
Banded krait
, Bungarus fasciatus
A dead
King cobra
, Ophiophagus hannah
The skin of a
Water monitor lizard
,
Varanus salvator
A live Burmese rock python, Python bivittatus
A live Reticulated python,
Python reticulatus

 

We were able to rescue two pythons, a Reticulated python (Python reticulatus) and a Burmese rock python (Python bivittatus), three Javan filesnakes (Acrochordus javanicus), a species used in the skin trade under the name of 'karung', a large number of Buff-faced watersnakes (Homalopsis buccata) and 10-12 blue mesh bags which I found in a toilet, each containing 4-6 Southeast Asian Russell's vipers (Daboia siamensis).

Live Snakes Rescued on the Raid
Burmese rock python, Python bivittatus
Reticulated python, Python reticulatus
Javan filesnake, Acrochordus javanicus
Puff-faced watersnake, Homolopsis buccata
Southeast Asian Russell's viper, Daboia saimensis