Employees at a Chinese bank got a shock in the middle of a meeting when a 5-foot-long python fell right onto them and started snaking its way inside the room.
A python in the office
The incident took place in the Xin Cheng branch of China’s Industrial and Commercial Bank in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The staff at the bank had gathered around for a meeting and were praying silently when the python fell very close to a young woman. The staff, scared at the sudden intruder, ran away in all directions, leaving the snake inside the room.
The python eventually came to rest under a couch. The staff called in the local public security officers from a nearby wildlife protection station. The personnel arrived at the scene, caught the snake, put it in a transparent bag, and took it away. The creature was later handed over to the Wildlife Rescue Research and Epidemic Monitoring center. No one was injured in the incident.
“Animal protectors said it was possible the python may have been reared by someone nearby, and believed it was hunting for food when it fell into the bank’s interior. Remarkably, the same branch had been visited by another snake last year,” according to ABC News.
An endangered species
Pythons are an endangered species mostly because they are hunted for their skin. In 2016, Chinese authorities cracked a python skin smuggling operation in the midst of bringing 68,000 skins into the country. This was the biggest such case in the history of China, with the total value of the skins estimated to be around US$48 million.
The smugglers used fake customs declaration forms to get the skins past the customs officials. These skins were supposed to be used in traditional Chinese musical instruments. “Pythons can be found across Asia, Australia, and Africa. They’re non-venomous constrictors that kill by wrapping themselves around their prey and suffocating it. Trade in live pythons and their parts is regulated by an international treaty to ensure their survival in the wild,” according to National Geographic.
The Golden Triangle, the region where Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar converge, is well known as a hotspot for python smuggling. Not only are they killed for their skins, but python meat is also much in demand by tourists, mostly from China.
“Restaurants [offer] endangered species on their menus, from ‘sauté tiger meat’ and bear paws to reptiles and pangolins; one business kept a live python and a bear cub in cages, both of which were available to eat on request,” said a 2015 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (Mongobay).
According to estimates, about 500,000 python skins are imported every year from Southeast Asia to markets like China, Europe, and the U.S. While in China the python skins are usually used for things like musical instruments, European markets import them to cater to the demands of high-end fashion.
And although authorities have implemented strict laws to counter the trafficking of python skins, the black market for such items is very much active throughout Europe. Taking the huge demand into consideration, Paris-based fashion brand Gucci has even set up a legal python farm in Thailand where the creatures will be bred, grown, killed, and skinned. The farm is expected to start producing adult skins in significant numbers by 2020.