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The Straits Times, 30 Jul 05

Seized: 500kg of python skins
Haul from a lorry on Causeway which was carrying audio speaker parts
By K.C. Vijayan

Channel NewsAsia, 29 Jul 05

Customs officers foil attempt to smuggle python skins into Singapore
By Joanne Leow, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : Customs officers foiled an attempt to smuggle python skins from Malaysia into Singapore at the Woodlands checkpoint.

A 36-year-old Malaysian man had tried to hide the boxes of python skins in a large consignment of speaker parts. However, upon scanning the lorry, officers suspected that there were other illegal goods on the lorry. Conducting a thorough check, they discovered 10 packages of dried python skins weighing over 500 kilogrammes.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority was alerted and the driver and skins were handed over to them for further investigations.

The reticulated python is a threatened species protected by international law against export and import without permits. Anyone convicted of such an offence faces a fine of up to $5,000 and a jail term of up to a year. - CNA /ch

The Straits Times, 30 Jul 05
Seized: 500kg of python skins
Haul from a lorry on Causeway which was carrying audio speaker parts
By K.C. Vijayan

MORE than half a tonne of illegal dried python skins, worth around $45,000, was seized from a lorry crossing the Causeway into Singapore on Wednesday night.

The skins, which had been hidden in a large consignment of audio speaker parts on the Malaysian-registered vehicle, were spotted by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers using a radiographic scanning system.

The 36-year-old Malaysian driver was arrested and referred with the confiscated items to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for further investigation, said an ICA spokesman.

It is the first time illegal python skins have been seized on the Causeway.

Last October, a shipment of 40,000 python and monitor lizard skins worth $800,000 was intercepted while being smuggled in a barge from Sumatra. The 65-year-old Indonesian skipper of the vessel was jailed for three months and fined $5,000.

Industry players said Wednesday's foiled bid is an indication of the huge demand for snake skins among global fashion houses, whose supplies are limited under quotas set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The reticulated python, the world's largest snake, is particularly prized for its attractive markings. A spokesman for the Singapore Reptile Skin Trade Association confirmed that there is currently a boom in demand for snakeskin products.

Singapore, he said, has been a major international trading centre for the reptile skin trade since the 1960s. Most of the skins imported here are re-exported to countries like France, Italy and Spain, with smaller consignments headed for Japan and the United States.

Said the spokesman: 'Our reputation has been due to the efficiency in processing import-export procedures and the trust built among the relatively small number of dealers in the trade and their clients. 'We would therefore like to see the illicit trade wiped out as quickly as possible.'

He admitted that legitimate traders would not be able to meet demand if it went above current limits. 'Snakes, unlike crocodiles, are captured from the wild, so it's limited, because the endangered species laws do not allow you to grab as much as you want. With crocodiles, you can increase the supply because many of them are bred in farms.'

The illicit trade had minimal impact on the association members' business, he said. AVA spokesman Lye Fong Keng said Singapore's reptile skin trade is worth about $150 million annually.

Coming soon after the AVA raid that netted endangered turtles being sold openly in pet shops here, Wednesday's haul could be evidence of a thriving illegal trade.

Said Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society: 'What is needed is adequate deterrents and vigorous enforcement. 'Look at the Indonesian skipper who was slapped with only a $5,000 fine and three months' jail for an $800,000 offence. There is nothing to deter him from doing it again.'

The AVA is understood to be reviewing the provisions of the current Act, including the penalties.

Fashion industry fuels demand

THE demand for snakeskin products is increasing.

An Internet check revealed dozens of sites and companies selling and manufacturing products made from reptile skins.

Python skin is currently all the rage among fashion designers. Snake skin is wonderful to work with, say the designers, because it is large enough to require only a few seams - and it is cheaper than crocodile skin.

In some countries, the manufacture of and trade in reptile-skin articles - such as coats, shoes, bags and belts - are permitted.

The reticulated python is the largest species of python living today. Its large size and the distinctive scale pattern on its scales make its skins very popular for leather products.

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