Illegal Commercialization of Rattlesnakes in Mexico

Villalobos-Juarez, Ivan

Sigala-Rodriguez, Jesus Colección Zoológica de la Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes Aguascalientes, México

México has about 37 species of rattlesnakes of the genus Crotalus of which 24 are endemic. Although all species are listed by the Mexican government as endangered, threatened or under special protection, the populations are still being heavily exploited. The illegal trade of rattlesnakes is colossal and unfortunately few investigations have been done in Mexico to estimate the number of organisms commercialized, and the goals of this investigation were to examine the illegal use of native rattlesnakes, their prices and the distribution channels in Mexico. We surveyed dealers from Mexico, USA and Europe, some interviews were held with private collectors and native people from Mexico, we also visited pet shops and local markets to find snakes on sale. In total, 33,400 persons were interviewed between 2016 and 2018. The results obtained showed that rattlesnakes are being used mostly in traditional medicine, as food, for the production of articles using their skins, and recently, as pets. We estimate that the number of rattlesnakes captured annually in Mexico amounts to at least 9,632 individuals. People in Mexico think that rattlesnakes cure cancer, HIV/AIDS and skin disorders, but there is no scientific evidence to support these statements; rattlesnakes and some other snakes are used for the manufacturing of boots, belts and purses. In the case of rattlesnakes used as pets, the traffickers look for endemic species, some of which are found only on islands, and these snakes are mostly shipped to USA and Europe. The rattlesnakes Crotalus molossus, C. atrox, and C. scutulatus are the most frequently sold species. It is necessary to do more research for each state in Mexico as the situation varies greatly per region.

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