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Sunday, 28 January, 2001, 15:35 GMT
China snake craze threatens crops
Albino python
Snakes are considered a delicacy in China
Farmers in China say they are reeling from big losses as a result of the soaring national popularity of snake-meat.

They say the intensive hunting of wild snakes has caused the mouse population to explode, with devastating consequences for crops.


An unusually large number of people have reserved tables with us

Snake restaurant worker
The Xinhua news agency warns that many of China's 200 snake species are being pushed close to extinction by the nationwide snake meat craze.

The agency suggests that the start of the Chinese 'Year of the Snake' - ushered in last week - will send demand at China's numerous speciality snake restaurants through the roof.

Snake boom

"An unusually large number of people have reserved tables with us over the past few days," said one staff member at a snake restaurant chain speaking to Xinhua.

Chinese New Year Celebrations
The year of the snake - in more ways than one
"Once we re-open on Wednesday, business will be even better than before," he added.

Apart from being considered a valuable source of nutrition in China, many traditional medicines are also snake-derived.

Snake wine - produced by fermenting the reptiles in strong alcohol - is also very popular.

Phenomenon

The hunger for snake meat is a country-wide phenomenon. According to Xinhua, people in the southern city of Shenzhen consume 10 tonnes - or two lorry-loads - of snake meat every day.

Conservation expert Huang Zhujian told Xinhua: "Mice species that are usually held in check by snakes are running wild, and agricultural production is suffering huge losses."

"Imbalances in nature caused by the blind killing of wild snakes has become a problem that can no longer be ignored," he added.

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10 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Vanishing reptiles prompt concern
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