The Responsible Ecosystems Sourcing Platform (RESP) and the Indonesian Institute for Science – Research Centre for Biology (RCB-LIPI) signed a collaboration agreement on 7th February 2017 with the prime objective of establishing the Indonesian Python Research Partnership. This coordinated effort will enhance both parties’ actions towards enhancing conservation efforts through sustainable use of pythons in Indonesia.
The joint activities aim to strengthen sustainable, legal and traceable trade of python skins that will result in conservation of wild populations and habitats, as well as in benefits of local communities. It will address the various challenges currently associated with managing the trade and enforcing regulations. The project aims to complement and reinforce existing efforts in Indonesia by integrating applied scientific tools and methodologies.
Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of reticulated python skins. Approximately 157,000 reticulated python skins are exported each year and all pythons are sourced from the wild. All skins exported however must at least be crust-tanned as per the Indonesian law. This measure supports domestic industry and creates employment opportunities. Approximately 200,000 people are involved in reptile skin trade in Indonesia of which 170,000 are collectors who belong to financially poor segment of the society.
A large number of people are involved in engagements dealing with live pythons. Hunters often catch pythons opportunistically in the farms they work in, while some other hunters use baited traps. The latter catching method is less preferred as it may reduce value due to potential damages to skin. The captured pythons are then sold to skinneries where they are held for short periods in individual bags or boxes until their slaughter. Currently, there is neither a standard slaughter method nor any housing arrangements addressing animal welfare related concerns. In addition, there remains scope of improvement in handling techniques as well as transport procedures of these live animals. These issues pertaining to animal welfare will be directly addressed as one of the components of the project.
The extent of illegal trade is unknown but representatives of the industry say it may be of a similar size to that of legal trade. This, in fact is a major concern of all legal tanneries and exporters. It is believed that there is a parallel market in illegal trade with increased participation of hunters and skin traders. The illegal trade is said to be carried out mainly via Malaysia as the trade route between Indonesia and Malaysia is very loosely monitored and poorly controlled due to the geographical conditions. Hunters and collectors find this more lucrative as there are no legal barriers or procedures to follow. The illegal trade is flourishing because there is supposedly an increasing number of buyers of these skins. This threatens the basis of sustainable trade in python skins and livelihoods of all who are engaged in and dependent on the trade.
Through this collaboration RESP and RCB-LIPI – which is also the Indonesian Scientific Authority of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) – will jointly establish robust tools and methodologies with a strong scientific and forensic basis that will be used for effective management and enforcement and to enable market-based economic incentives for sustainable use.
The joint activities will include analysing the illegal python skin trade and its impacts on conservation and livelihoods, developing and field testing an improved non-detriment findings model to better establish the amount of pythons that can be harvested sustainably, developing forensic applications based on population genetics and morphological characteristics, and implementation of production, handling and management better practice guidelines both for wild harvesting and captive breeding operations, including on animal welfare.
These tools and methodologies will be implemented in specific points of the supply and regulatory chains through comprehensive capacity building and training. The capacity building activities and materials will be designed suitably for the various key stakeholders. This will be jointly done in collaboration with regional representatives of partner organizations.
It is expected that through the Indonesian Python Research Partnership, Indonesian communities, industry and government stakeholders will be empowered to manage biodiversity and ecosystems-services through improved mechanisms, measurable impacts, and better practices. The relevant authorities will be able to take informed decisions to effectively minimize illegal trade as well as be able to maintain the sustainable production level of legal harvest.
RESP will facilitate linkages between collectors, processors and brands to promote the use of frameworks to clarify roles and responsibilities, as well as potential benefits for meeting conservation objectives and penalties for non-compliance. The collaborative efforts will ultimately improve the competitiveness of the industry and generating household income to improve and sustain livelihoods.
The Responsible Ecosystems Sourcing Platform (RESP) was established in 2013 as a not-for profit organisation with a mission to bring together the cosmetics, fashion and jewellery industries and their key stakeholders to take collective action and contribute to the creation of net positive environmental, social and economic impacts by fostering change towards the responsible and sustainable use of natural capital as a means of achieving sustainable and inclusive growth to benefit people and nature.
More information about RESP, its work areas and its members can be found on at: www.resp.ch
Officially established in 1967, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Indonesian: Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia or LIPI) is the largest and the oldest research institute in Indonesia. It is the governmental authority for science and research in Indonesia and consists of 47 research centres in the fields ranging from social to natural sciences.
The functions of LIPI are to: 1) conduct research and development of science and technology; 2) provide guidance on the development of science and technology; 3) encourage and develop science consciousness among the Indonesian people; 4) encourage and develop the scientific community; 5) develop cooperation with national as well as international scientific bodies in accordance with the existing laws and regulations; 6) provide services relating to science and technology, and 7) advise the government on the formulation of national policy on science and technology.
More information about LIPI can be found at: www.lipi.go.id