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Sustainable use of the yellow anaconda in Argentina

The FSVO supports projects relating to species conservation that have a direct link to the activities of the Office and to Switzerland. These include the long-term “sustainable use of the yellow anaconda in Argentina” project. The Swiss-based luxury goods and watch industry is a major customer for goods made from reptile leather. This has made Switzerland a big trans-shipment point for leather goods of this type, and the country therefore has a great interest in ensuring that these reptiles are used sustainably.

The yellow anaconda is listed in CITES Appendix II (see box), which permits trade as long as it is carried out sustainably and documented accordingly. This snake species occurs in South America and lives mainly in wet regions. The yellow anaconda is the largest snake in Argentina, reaching a length of four to five metres. Its skin is in great demand and for a long time the species was therefore hunted non-sustainably. Trade was halted to preserve the yellow anaconda from extinction and only restarted when a flanking scientific programme was set up to ensure the sustainability of removing animals from the wild. In recent years the FSVO has financed some of this scientific support.

 

Yellow anaconda (picture provided by M. Lörtscher, FSVO)

 

The first step was to record biological parameters of individual animals and the whole population of yellow anacondas that were not being used. These parameters include length, weight, number of embryos present, sexual maturity and condition of the internal organs. The information provides a reference against which the health of the animals and the population can be assessed. Then conservative capture quotas were determined to help develop an adaptive management strategy. The effects of hunting on the population of yellow anacondas that was being used were investigated using the biological parameters, and environmental parameters such as temperature and precipitation in the snakes’ habitat were recorded and their impact on the population was determined. The biological parameters recorded during the previous year and the environmental factors can be used to determine annual capture quotas in such a way that the species can now be used sustainably by the predominantly poor local population. A corresponding monitoring programme has been set up and is performed during every hunting season. As soon as specified parameters change in a way that is significant in terms of maintaining the population, the capture quotas can be modified to ensure that the population is safeguarded sustainably. The new capture quotas are subsequently monitored.

 

Family with captured snakes (picture provided by the Fundacion Biodiversidad)

 

Checking the parameters of the killed animals (picture provided by the Fundacion Biodiversidad)