The use of snake skins for the commercial production of leather only started in the mid-1920s, but by 1990 a regional review of supply-side countries in Asia found that python populations in several countries had already declined. The 1990 report discussed that collecting pythons for the skin trade had adversely affected populations and also found evidence that the true value of skins was ‘substantially under-declared’. Step forward 30 years and sadly all the same problems remain, even though report after report has reaffirmed the conclusions of the 1990 research.
Research published in 2020 found that between 2003 and 2013, luxury fashion brands had thousands of exotic leather goods seized by U.S. law enforcement, nearly 70% of which were exotic leather products. Reptiles accounted for 84 percent of all items, many of which were belts, watch bands, wallets, shoes, and purses. According to the official seizure records Ralph Lauren accounted for 29% of the seized items, Gucci 16%, Michael Kors 10%, Jil Sander 6% and Coach 5%. Gucci had the highest number of individual seizure incidents followed by Yves Saint Laurent; other designers who has product seized included Diane von Furstenberg, Chanel, and Versace.
This research has been hard to do in more recent years because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after freely releasing this data for decades stopped doing so in 2014. As a result, the Center for Biological Diversity, with support from Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic, is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to release data on the wildlife traded across U.S. borders. The United States is a major importer of wildlife, bringing in an estimated 225 million live animals and 883 million dead specimens annually for the pet trade, décor, fashion, food, research and trophy hunting more.