However, not all snakeskin products that reach store shelves can be traced. Many brands and stores don’t know where the python skin comes from, trade rules are easily exploited, and the illegal snakeskin trade is highly lucrative. There are also far fewer animal protection laws for reptiles, and it is endangering some species.
At a small snakeskin-processing factory in Bekasi, West Java, owner Ayu says that the factory makes sales through trade fairs in China, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei. She says snakeskin bags from Indonesia are very much in demand from foreign buyers. With five employees, she can produce 50 bags and 30 wallets in one month.
A man lays the skins out in the sun for drying.
Once the snakes have been peeled, the skins are rolled up and sorted into piles according to size. Then they’re cut with scissors into strips, and dried, sometimes in an oven. The snake meat is not wasted; it is thought to cure various ailments, such as asthma, and boost virility.
Once dried, sheets of snakeskins are dyed and processed into bags, wallets, belts and shoes—and then sent overseas, where they will often receive a dramatic price markup. In Indonesia, a snakeskin bag can cost 1.5 million-3 million Indonesian rupiah (USD $120-250), but can go for thousands of dollars in the United States.