Harvest effects on blood pythons in North Sumatra

Daniel J. D. Natusch*, Jessica A. Lyons, Mumpuni, Awal Riyanto, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Wildlife populations exposed to intense harvesting often exhibit shifts in attributes of the commercial offtake (e.g., numbers, body sizes, body condition, sex ratios, size at maturation, reproductive frequency). To look for such changes, we examined >2,500 specimens of field-collected blood pythons (Python brongersmai) brought to 2 processing facilities in North Sumatra over 2 survey periods (1996–1997 and 2014–2015). Over the 18 years between our surveys, approximately 900,000 blood pythons were taken from Indonesia for the commercial trade; North Sumatra accounted for about 35% of that trade volume. Between survey periods, numbers of snakes brought to 1 processing facility decreased and mean body size increased, whereas at the second facility numbers and sizes of snakes remained the same. Overall, the pythons collected in 2015–2016 were thinner-bodied than in 1996–1997, with fewer immature animals and a reduced size at maturation and reproductive frequency among females. Clutch size relative to maternal size decreased also. These temporal shifts in python demographics likely reflect a response to harvesting, although ecosystem changes may have played a role. Compared to other squamate reptiles, blood pythons may be more vulnerable to over-harvesting because most snakes are intensively collected from discrete habitat patches (oil palm plantations), and the species can be targeted by specific hunting methods. To ensure sustainability of the harvest, we recommend minimum and maximum size limits for skins used in the commercial trade, and more intensive monitoring at processing facilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-255
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number2
Early online date20 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • adaptation
  • Indonesia
  • Python curtus
  • short-tailed python
  • sustainability
  • wildlife trade

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