In one of my first visits to Lumpani Park I came upon a juvenile Jack’s Water Snake. While viewing and photographing the snake, an American tourist watching nearby got anxious and stated, “I ask only that you do not harm the snake.” Further inquiry found that he had bought the snake at a Bangkok market and “humanely” released it into the Lumpani lake. My friend quizzed him and found he had no idea whether the snake was a native species or whether it was venomous. We did our best to explain why releasing the snake had been a bad idea.

puff-faced water snake Homalopsis buccata

Releasing a captive animal into the wild, even a native one, is not good for the local ecosystems. Non-native species such as the red-eared sliders in the ponds, the Norway rats in the streets, and the English house sparrows in the trees, may prey on, outcompete and spread disease among local species. Even native species that have spent time in captivity are at risk to transmit disease into the wild populations. If you purchase a captive animal and can no longer care for it, find a responsible person to take over care for the animal rather than releasing it into the wild.

The water snake we found is only one of thousands of snakes that get processed through Bangkok’s markets. Most of that trade is illegal. The vast majority of those snakes either die within the marketing process, die soon after they are sold, or are released into an unfamiliar habitat in the wild. Please only purchase snakes if you familiar with how large they will get and how to take care of them, and only buy them from licensed, legal snake breeders. If someone is selling the animals on the street of out of a market, it’s best to assume the worst and move on.

Here are a few images of animals in markets in Bangkok:

Juvenile Reticulated Python Python reticulatus

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Alex Krohn shared the following picture from Vietnam, the source of many water snakes.

Water Snakes for sale in Vietnamese market