The New York Daily News said the importer claimed the skins had originated from China, but inspectors from the US Fish and Wildlife Service said this could not be true.
“The dog-faced water snake, Cerberus rynchops, is not known to have a wild population in China,” the Daily News quoted assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Orenstein as saying.
The seizure was made in 2013, and is currently being examined in a court case at Brooklyn Federal Court.
According to the Reptile Database, this snake lives in coastal areas, and can be found around the shores of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, northwest Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste. It can grow to just under a metre long.
Cerberus rynchops is listed as protected on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, although it is filed under “least concern”. The organisation says its major threats include its being harvested for skins in Indonesia, although it is not clear whether this practice still occurs.
The World Wildlife Fund recomments that those purchasing wildlife products overseas should ask themselves these questions to determine whether they are purchasing an endangered species:
- What is this product made of?
- Where did this product come from?
- Does the country I’m visiting allow the sale and export of this product?
- Do I need permits or other documents from this country or the United
States to bring this item home?