Snakes in the Market

25 Oct

In one of my first visits to Lumpani Park I came upon a juvenile Puff-faced Water Snake. Upon viewing and photographing the snake, an American tourist 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 Park lakes. My friend quizzed the guy and found that he had no idea whether the snake was a native species or whether it was venomous. We did our best to explain to him 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, or spread disease among local species. And even native species that have spent time in captivity are highly at risk for transmitting disease into the wild populations. If you purchase a captive animal and can no longer care for it, please find a responsible person to take over care for the animal rather than releasing it into the wild.

Sadly, 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 are extremely 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 snakes and other animals in markets in Bangkok:

Juvenile Reticulated Python Python reticulatus

Water Snakes for sale in Vietnamese market






(note – the cage full of water snakes was a photo from Vietnam, courtesy of Alex Krohn. All of the other photos were taken by me in Bangkok.)

1 Comment

Posted by on October 25, 2014 in Herping adventures


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One response to “Snakes in the Market

  1. Eric Wayne

    October 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting that they have a horned lizard. Not sure how it would do in Thailand’s humidity, but at least one could find enough ants to feed it just about anywhere I’ve lived. Of course I agree about releasing natives species, but there’s a little part of me that would just love to establish colorful day geckos here. Don’t worry, even if I did have the wherewithal to do something like that, I know better. I had some pet day geckos in America, and think they’d do great in this environment. I love the geckos here, but aside from the monster Tokay, they are comparatively drab.


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