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Inside The Thriving Snake Black Market In Australia

They can be deadly to humans and catastrophic to the environment.

18/11/2016 11:45 AM AEDT | Updated 18/11/2016 11:46 AM AEDT
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Bobby Yip / Reuters
Snakes are smuggled into Australia for the pet trade.

Australia has enough venomous snakes for the rest of the world, yet there is a thriving illegal black market of smuggled reptiles including deadly puff adders and spitting cobras.

While these species present serious danger to their owners, new research shows there's a genuine risk escapees could form permanent colonies in Australia's arid conditions.

The University of Adelaide research analysed records of seized 'alien reptiles' and then looked at each species' ability to survive in Australia.

Of seized foreign reptiles in Victoria between 1999-2012, 35 percent were venomous snakes while 17 percent were capable of forming a permanent colony in Australia.

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service / Fairfax Media
Border officers discover a snake coiled in a suitcase.

The black-trade animals most able to form a permanent habitat in Australia were deadly puff adders, yellow anacondas, snapping turtles and burmese pythons.

Invasion Ecology Group PhD candidate Pablo Garcia-Diaz told The Huffington Post Australia these snakes were part of the international illegal wildlife trade.

"You might hear news about the importation of rhino horn and elephant, these alien reptile species are part of the same wildlife trade," Garcia-Diaz said.

"They are mostly smuggled in, through airplanes, passengers and boats. "

In Australia, illegally-imported snakes have been uncovered during raids on bikie clubhouses, within people's luggage at airports and recently, within a man's backpack on public transport.

As for the desire to keep a deadly animal in your home?

"I don't know why people want to bring in a venomous animal when there are so many in our own backyard in Australia," he said.

"I think people want to own an animal that is unusual and exotic."

Police Media / Fairfax Media
In 2009, detectives located three snakes, a chameleon, guns and drugs at a Rebels Motorcycle Club residence.

Project leader Associate Professor Phill Cassey said authorities needed more information about the black market trade to stamp out activity before a species was released and caused an ecological problem.

"Illegal wildlife trade is a major threat to biodiversity worldwide," Cassey said.

"In the regions where the animals are being taken from, unsustainable harvesting levels are driving population declines. And in the regions where they are being introduced, the illegal trade represents a likely source of new alien species to disrupt the local ecosystems and, in the case of venomous snakes, pose a potential threat to humans."

Snakes seized in Australia

Madagascar ground boa

Puff adder

Gaboon viper

Getty Images/iStockphoto
A gaboon viper.

African brown snake

Saharan horned viper

Trinket snake

Emerald tree boa

South American rattlesnake

Getty Images/iStockphoto
The dangerous South American rattlesnake.

Russell's viper

Rainbow boa

Yellow anaconda

Gray-banded kingsnake

Steve Cooper
The gray-banded kingsnake is striking.

Eastern kingsnake

Rosy boa

Sonoran coral snake

Monocle cobra

Indochinese spitting cobra

miracky
Do not try this at home with an Indochinese spitting cobra.

Western rat snake

Pacific gopher snake

Common garter snake

Lataste's viper

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