Friday, April 20, 2007

How Much is That Reptile in the Window?

By Katherine Fenech
People who sell from car boots in parks or shopping centre car parks might look a bit dodgy but some aren't as shady as they might seem. With theft of reptiles becoming more prevalent across the region some snakes can fetch $10,000 licensed keepers have taken to advertising their wares on internet forums and meeting buyers in public places away from their homes.

Hawkesbury Herpetological Society vice-president Michael McFadden said a reptile keeper who is selling 20 babies from a litter does not want to have 20 people know where the snakes are kept so they sell in neutral locations. "Quite often they'll meet somewhere down the road, just for the sake of not bringing people to your house,'' he said. Mr McFadden said that snakes could cost from $150 to $10,000 but he had not heard of keepers installing extra security, apart from perimeter alarms, in their homes. A National Parks and Wildlife Service licence is required by anyone who keeps or sells snakes. Anyone buying, selling or possesing snakes without a licence can be fined up to $11,000 and face up to six months in jail. Brendon Neilly, the service's wildlife licensing officer, said buyers are responsible for finding out if the seller is licensed.

Featherdale Wildlife Park's senior park curator Evan Harris said two Arafura file snakes, a Collett's snake and a water python stolen from the Doonside zoo in October had not been located. "We've had our ears to the ground, so whoever's got them was pretty keen on them and wanted them for themselves, and kept it quiet,'' he said. He said some of the six snakes stolen from a Colyton home last month, an Atherton python, Centralian python and the black and gold jungle python from Central Australia, were rare on the Sydney reptile collection scene and therefore valuable.

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