For-Profit Cobra Breeding May Aid Wild Populations

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In April and May of this year, tens of thousands of juveniles weighing 500 to 700 grams (one to 1.5 pounds) each were returned from the south and distributed to the cooperative's members to be raised to adulthood.

Lich said this year's bred cobras will be sold for about 270,000 dong (about $17) per kilogram once they grow in the autumn into adults weighing 2 to 2.5 kilograms (4.4 to 5.5 pounds) each.

Because the cooperative is still in its formative stages, it still needs to implement "effective management" methods to enable it to weather various business difficulties, including price fluctuations, Lich said.

However, local authorities have lauded the cooperative's initiative in breeding the protected snakes and vowed to encourage other communes to establish similar cooperatives.

"In the future we would like to release cobras bred by our cooperative into the wild," Lich said. He has asked environmental officials to allow cobras bred at the Vinh Son Commune to be released in Tam Dao National Park, a popular summer resort 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Hanoi. Authorities have not yet responded to the request.

Vietnam, with its own wildlife under siege, has gained a degree of notoriety among environmentalists as both a major market and a transit country for animals killed in increasing numbers in neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

Conservation officials face an uphill battle in attempting to suppress trade in illegal wildlife in Vietnam, where poachers vastly outnumber forest rangers. Trade in wild cobras is widely expected to continue because specimens caught in the wild tend to weigh about twice as much as those bred in captivity and can command prices of 400,000 to 500,000 dong (U.S. $25 to $30) per kilogram.

Copyright 2002 Kyodo News

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