MALAYSIA’S only snake farm in Semenyih, Selangor, houses 200 reticulated pythons (retics).
Owner Lim Kim Wah, 50, said work on his 1.2ha farm began three years ago when he brought in pregnant retics from snakeskin processing facilities in the country.
“Once the snakes laid eggs, I returned them to the processing plants. Huge retics can lay up to 100 eggs, while the medium-sized ones have about 30 eggs.
“We had 300 snakes. We then killed about 100 and kept their skins in the warehouse.
“We are not exporting them yet because buyers usually order 800 to 1,000 retic skins in one go. They would not buy in small amounts.”
He said his farm, Lim Maju Jaya Trading, was exporting snake skins to China and Japan.
The snakes, he said were fed chickens sourced for free from nearby chicken farms. Some of the snakes could consume up to three chickens in one feeding.
“I only have two workers as I only have 200 retics. We need at least between 10,000 and 20,000 to run a successful business.”
Lim said it was best to breed the reptile from young, since wild retics were extremely violent and often refused to eat.
“Some of them grow quickly and can exceed 3.6m in just two years.
“If they are disturbed by human presence, they can get stressed and refuse to eat. There were times when the snakes didn’t eat for four months, which affected their growth.”
He said officers from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) checked on his premises twice or thrice a year to assess if the reptiles were farm snakes or had been caught in the wild.
He said there were cases where people offered to sell snakes caught in the wild to him.
“I don’t buy from them. I just tell them to release the reptiles into the wild. Wild snakes do not make good farm snakes to begin with.
Lim said although the retics were not venomous, they had sharp teeth.
He said Perhilitan also conducted special sessions with farmers and hunters on ways to kill the reptile quickly and in the least painful manner.
Lim, who previously ran a business exporting other animals, such as monitor lizards, to Japan and China, hoped the European Union ban on the import of retic skin from Peninsular Malaysia would be lifted.
Sky Pacify Reptile Sdn Bhd (importer and exporter of reptile skin) director Tan Yong Hua hoped the authorities would look into ways to get retic skins to be exported to Europe.
He said snake skin cost US$100 (RM443) per piece if exported to Europe, but only about RM200 if sold to China.
Sky Pacify, based in Sepang, Selangor, is one of the largest python skin suppliers and producers in Malaysia, and has been involved in the snake industry for more than 20 years.
‘Malaysia, Indonesia main sources of species’
SOUTHEAST Asian pythons are heavily exploited for skins, food and traditional Chinese medicine, with an estimated half a million python skins alone exported annually.
According to the 2012 International Trade Centre (ITC) report, “The Trade in Southeast Asian Python Skins”, the reticulated python (retic) is the most heavily traded snake species in Southeast Asia (340,000 skins exported annually) with Indonesia and Malaysia being the main sources of this species, most of which come from the wild.
In Malaysia, retics are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) from any form of exploitation, including keeping, hunting, captive breeding and trading.
Such activities are regulated by the Wildlife and National Parks Department.
Hunting is allowed by the Wildlife Conservation Act under conditions. They are:
ONLY licensed hunters are permitted to catch the snakes using only hands or nets;
A licence allows the capture of a maximum of 50 pythons (valid all year);
HUNTING is allowed between 7am to 7pm;
LICENSED traders are allowed to source their pythons from licensed hunters or other licensed traders; and,
THE state government has the right to impose additional regulations via enactments.