The Costly and Illegal Snake Trade

Photograph by: Unknown (if you know please drop a comment)

Open any activism site and there are a slew of petitions and articles condemning the horrors of animal smuggling. It is a market that is ever growing and circulates an estimated $19 billion USD in revenue. However, among these, reptiles are rarely a primary focus. Especially with so much outcry against whale hunting, the ivory trade, and shark fishing dominating the activism stage. Of those you may find regarding the smuggle of reptiles, snakes make up an even smaller niche. Despite this, as little as 1 liter of snake venom can sale from $215,000 to $235,000 dollars. They are sold for skins, for venom, likely for pets in some cases, and for uses as aphrodisiacs.

Despite the consequences of live animal smuggling, and snake smuggling in particular, it isn’t a topic I had considered until recently. I interned with a petition organization, advocating animal welfare and safety. During that time, it never occurred to me to address this corner of the black market. In a way, it seemed almost counter-intuitive that anyone would not automatically acknowledge the illegality of keeping venomous snakes in their home, much less attempting to make a business from selling their venom. Not until I was talking with my boss about some of the crazy things one sees when working in real estate. He told me about a rented home he visited once, where the tenants were keeping rattle snakes in aquariums covered by slats of wood weighted by stones. Anyone with a survival instinct would consider how idiotic that is, not to mention illegal. However, he didn’t know. I didn’t realize they didn’t know until a colleague asked why ‘anyone would want a rattle snake for a pet.’ At the moment, I was shocked they didn’t know. Later, I kept thinking about it, took a hop-skip around the internet for articles – anything really – on snake smuggling. Most of the articles are more like case studies, hosted by science websites or organizations who keep tabs on the black market. Others were denouncing the idiocy of consumers who waste money on ‘snake oil.’ Not one petition, not one article attempting to take all these threads of information and piece them together into something informative for the general reader.

Snake smuggling may not be on the same scale as the ivory trade, the effects of this market can (are) even more catastrophic. Unlike ivory, snakes are live, they are sold and transported into foreign countries en masse. This poses a gargantuan danger to local ecosystems these snakes are likely to be introduced to. Between 1999 and 2015, 28 species of reptiles were seized 10 of which were species of snakes . Of those 28, scientists theorize that as many as 12 could settle and thrive in local ecosystem. Establishing a new prey animal, predator, or insect to an alien ecosystem can completely upend the balance of it. A dangerous thing in a time when so many of our indigenous animal populations are suffering mass extinctions. Snakes are generally introduced into these alien environments accidentally, or just irresponsibly. When the handler taking what they need finish with the snake, they often leave them to die. Abandon them to the wilds of wherever the handler lives. While this may kill the snake, there is also the chance the snake could establish itself. The risk grows higher and higher the more snakes are left, because it only takes that one to make it. To mingle and breed with local populations, and not only is there a new predator in the ecosystem, there is now a new strain entirely.

It may seem odd, that the snakes would be sold in mass numbers if their primary marketability lies with their venom. The answer to that is astoundingly simple. A snake handler by the name of Bill Haast measured the amount of time and number of milkings necessary to obtain 1 liter of coral snake venom. It must also be taken into account that not every milking will produce venom. While it wasn’t specified, I would assume he likely only noted successful milkings. So, 3 years and almost 70,000 milkings later, he obtained 1 liter of venom . Not exactly economic if one seeks to make oodles of money. So how do they overcome it? By having many, many of a breed of snake and milking all of them. Not only are the numbers these snakes are held in daunting, to imagine the danger they pose with every handling. Here is something that has the potential to kill a person with one bite, and they are handled every day. If we take into account how other smuggled animals are held, we can easily infer these snakes are held in equal levels of squalor. In a way, the danger posed by selling snake venom works against authorities trying to shut down smuggling rings. The sellers are small, tightly knit, and the network is expansive. Secretive. It makes it hard to find who is selling, and where that individual is obtaining their supply. Another difficulty is proving the venom came from a protected species. Especially in areas where it isn’t necessarily illegal to have a venomous snake, only certain species. However, thanks to a study conducted in 2012, scientists have finally discovered a way to isolate genes in snake venom specific to each venomous species.

So what’s going on with this venom? With the snakes? Facilities that study and synthesize anti-venom only use venom from certified – legal – facilities. They also don’t need a liter of venom at a time. Ironically enough, one of the biggest markets is drugs. There are a lot of problems with that statement, I understand. Why would a person eat venom that could kill them? Although, I would assume it is likely the same reasoning that urges them to inhale methamphetamine. The next problem, is that there is no evidence to say that snake venom will actually get the user ‘high’. In theory, on a biochemical level, the venom could potentially (could and potentially being key) cause some sort of altered state of mind, a ‘high’ even. The chances of that actually happening? Negligible. Still, the demand is high – especially in India  – and has become a popular ‘cocktail’ with liquor, cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogens such as molly. I think, what is the most frightening part of this craze, is that doctors don’t really know what this is, can, or will eventually do to human bodies.

Snakes have a pretty bad rep, especially in Western countries. However, this distaste in them shouldn’t be enough to deter focus on the dangers smuggling presents. If activism is going to be effective, it needs to be less biased toward the “cute and fuzzy”, and look to address the problems with as little bias as possible.

Sources

  1. Wildlife Command Crazy Prices on the Black Market; Snake Venom Sells at $215,000 Per Liter
    Niyi Aderibigbe. The Nerve. Dec 12, 2015.
    http://thenerveafrica.com/1817/wildlife-command-crazy-prices-on-the-black-market-snake-venom-sells-at-215000-per-litre-bear-bile-at-200000-per-pound-and-a-dead-tiger-costs-5000/
  2. Snake Venom for Sale. Global Black Market Information – Havoscope
    https://www.havoscope.com/snake-venom-for-sale
  3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161117101829.htm
  4. The Forensics of Snake Venom
    Douglas M. Main. New York Times – Green. February 10, 2012.
    https://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/the-forensics-of-snake-venom/?_r=0
  5. Species Identification from Dried Snake Venom
    Chandra S. Singh M.Sc., Ajay Gaur Ph.D., Ara Sreenivas M.Sc., Lalji Singh Ph.D. January 23, 2012.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.02049.x/full
  1. Snake Black Market Poses Risk to Humans and Wildlife
    Science News. Science Daily. November 17, 2016.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161117101829.htm
  2. Breakfast With Cobra Venom
    Shiv Pujan Jha. Daily News & Analysis India. February 20, 2014
    http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-breakfast-with-cobra-venom-to-get-a-high-1963543
  3. Snake Oil Merchants
    Janaki Lenin. The Hindu. November 2, 2012 & June 22, 2016.
    http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-metroplus/snake-oil-merchants/article4058507.ece
  4. Snakes Alive, the Venomous Vino that Comes with Added Bite
    Daily Mail Reporter. Daily Mail. January 20, 2011.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348906/Vietnamese-snake-scorpion-rice-wines-leave-biting-headache.html

Meditation Day 2

Sat later today to meditate, again not for very long but I tend to stop when I get fidgety. Sort of defeats the purpose if I can’t even sit still.

Definitely feel more relaxed still, despite the short time (and sleepy, honestly, but I attribute that more to the rain and being comfortable.)

Tried it with a vajrasattva mantra today, I think the chanting makes it easier to still the mind (a bit). I can focus on the voice and breathing and then sort of… drift. Until of course I remember something I need to do in 10 minutes, and start trying to micromanage my schedule again.

Ah well, progress.

~Jess

Meditation: Day 1

Art by megdowntherabbithole on etsy.com

I’ve started a lot of new endeavors this year, and all of them are geared toward self-improvement. As I have a tendency to charge headlong down a path, and push harder and harder to try and get there faster, more efficiently… I have a tendency to burn myself out. Chomping at the bit, so to speak, to succeed. 

So I’ve added meditating every day to this list of improvements. Mindfulness.

So I sat this morning, for, I don’t know? Five or ten minutes. Just… basking in the excitement, the nervousness, the impatience… the hunger for more, more, more… and it’s amazing, I think, just how much difference in tension and stress five minutes can make.

So, day one, journal-ed and marked down. I’ll probably keep dropping these, with maybe a comment on something I’ve learned to improve technique. Mostly as a way to keep myself going. Keep doing it every day, rather than letting myself cram on other things and push it back and push it back until it’s 11 PM and I’ve not meditated at all.

Mindfulness guys! It’s a stupendous thing.

Also to focus on:
Spend less
Eat Healthier
Waste Less
Be more environmentally aware
Exercise every day

~Jess

Friendships and Networking

 

Networking – that big scary word that comes up in any career that requires socializing. Although, if we think about it, networking is a pretty big part of every career now. Writers, artists, bloggers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, politicians, salesmen/women; everyone networks. Even if it’s just among immediate colleagues (although I would bet if we sat down and thought about it for a minute, that web extends well past our coworkers.) Still, it seems… daunting. And I suppose it is?

There’s the beginning question of where to draw the line with this ‘networking relationship’, do you draw a line? Do you even bother making a line, or does that inherently hinder the progress of the relationship? How do you approach an individual with the desire to network, to form this symbiotic co-existence on a professional level to assist, motivate, inspire, “promote” etc. each other? Is there an etiquette for that? Or do we just approach them like a potential friend, and move into the “hey be a business contact with me”? Does it depend on the situation? The person? How do you avoid coming off as disingenuous?

So many questions. So overwhelming, and if you’re anything like me, poor reader, and find comfort and confidence in social etiquette… it’s almost too much. Like treading water in a tempest in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Sayonara sanity? Yeah, that’s how it has felt. Overwhelming to the point of anxiety and frustration.

Still, it didn’t occur to me to actually Google networking until a few days ago. Mostly, I think, because I – like many others – assumed I knew how one networks. Maybe not the proper social parameters to approach an individual through… but I thought I knew. In a general sense, I did. However, I was thinking on much too large of a scale. Much too broadly. Big leaps rather than small steps.

I also sat through a livestream of the Buffini Success Tour yesterday afternoon, and listened to Darren Hardy speak. Brilliant. Brilliant speaker. Just, some of the things I learned in that hour and a half, some of the reinforcement, the reminders; they settled a lot of those worries (not entirely, I’m a neurotic wreck and nothing will entirely silence that.) But it helped. It gave me a point of reference to start, at least, looking for answers. How to form questions.

In another sense, this blog will (has already) helped solidify a few of those more ambiguous questions.

So last night, motivated by this speaker and having a more solid idea for taking action, I googled networking (-gasp-). What I immediately found was this glorious little article that broke networking down  into 8 steps.

Read It Here.

Start small, and build out. Common sense, right? Well, honestly, in the mad scramble of ‘get business’, ‘meet people’, ‘make money’, ‘learn’, ‘be successful’, etc. etc. etc. That sort of gets lost. You want to cast the net as broadly as possible, gather in those gems as quickly as possible, and like a gold miner, sift it through water. Timely. Tedious. Daunting. And not as likely to be successful as targeting specific individuals, connecting with them. Offering an exchange of knowledge, of professional companionship, of assistance and/or work; and building a few, firmly rooted contacts with people who will be important to your success. Whose success you can hopefully play an important role in; give and take.

Buffini said one should go into a relationship with the expectation of giving 100% and receiving nothing, because that is the only way you’re going to gain. To cultivate a relationship rather than looking to use someone to progress yourself.

Not even a revelation, but putting it down like that… it makes it less frightening, this beast they call networking.

So I made a list of friends, people I already have good relationships with, or who I know but lost touch with and travel different social circles than me. I figured, that increased my chances of meeting new people I don’t already know. I made another list of people I don’t know quite as well, but who I enjoyed talking to before and hope to sort of… solidify a relationship. Then I copied down a few people I don’t know very well, but who I respect and would be excited, honored  – a gushing mess, really, – to work with. People I want to learn from but also, I suppose, become a peer to.

So friends are a good place to start building. Your GP, people you see regularly all the time. Begin with them… express a desire to be contacts, to promote each others business.

ASK THEM FOR REFERRALS.

I think that is the most ridiculously shocking thing I’ve learned (but haven’t put properly into practice yet as i should be doing.) ASK FOR BUSINESS. It is not rude. It is not bad. One would consider, in hindsight, it’s an obvious thing to do? But something that, again, hadn’t occurred to me.

 

 

Another Morning Begins at Night

9:43 PM to be specific, and I really have no aim or purpose for this blog. I’ve read that is always a good place to start, with a topic. I have one of those ‘topic focused’ blogs, and I find my motivation for it waning (in the capricious way all sleep deprived ideas put into action at 4 AM have a tendency to do.) In any event, all of this is just really self-indulgent “stream of thought typed out into words”, journalistic sort of unloading of the swirling thoughts and shit I need to learn, do, acclimatize to…

And a small bit of hope that by veritably word-vomiting it out in a forum which may provide some form of entertainment or amusing insight for others, will help settle the thoughts. Provide clarity. An “It’s all out in words now, so let’s focus” type of situation.

Emotional dumping in nonsensical tangents, I suppose, as life affords us so few chances to do that without exposing ourselves unnecessarily to ridicule. Or the potential of ridicule. Funny how that happens. That people applaud the poignancy of emotion displayed in a book or on a screen, but deride it in their peers.

Anyway, to begin one such dump. I have been learning – so much, not too much, never too much – about networking, building a business; about success. Really, check out Darren Hardy, brilliant, brilliant man. However, it all feels a bit overwhelming honestly… how to network, who to network with, when to network; reaching out for referrals, for leads, for work, for training, but still need to make money. All this wanting hunger, it’s exciting to want things again. To aspire to great things. Even more so, to learn how to get there rather than just wanting to.

Still, I started real estate two months ago. It seems almost daunting to begin laying the groundwork for a local network and I’m honestly not sure how to even begin. I mean I do know, in theory, but most of that theory requires knowing people… and for the last five years I was terribly alienated from the people in my community. To the point that, outside of a scant few, I know hardly anyone. Now it comes down to how to use those few to expand the network… and how to do so in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m asking for handouts (because people still consider networking manipulative, even in the 21st century, idiotic as that sounds.) From there, converting that networking and “hey you” into leads. Into people who can/could bring in business

Videos, mail-outs and cards sound so much easier than trying to face-to-face meet. All hail the internet (and LinkedIn) for small mercies.

I’ve learned in this time that, while Facebook is sworn upon, it is not precisely ideal for business. Mostly, I would assume, for the sheer daunting amount of informality and uncouth displays of TMI.

Social media was, in many ways, I think, the slow-death of discretion.

One one side, real estate. On the other acting. I am new to both, but I can also see… how well they could play together. The overlap of learning one, and using that learning to benefit the other. Yet still, the sheer volume of information I’ve crammed into my skull since November is almost… disorienting. It needs an out, and I need a way to vent it out in the discombobulated mess it has become, so that it can be neatly ordered. Into files, into shelves.

Into a cohesive, foundation of a plan. and more determinate, precise actions to fulfill that plan.

That all sounds so clandestine, and maybe it is, maybe I should just really go to bed and give my grey-matter the rest it obviously desires. Rather than pushing through that haze of heavy-lidded-almost-sleep to finish this up and snicker at myself over a snack of strawberries.

I think I’ve run out of words anyway… for now?

~ Jess