Pleguezuelos JM, Feriche M, Brito JC, Fahd S



Traditional activities that potentially threaten biodiversity represent a challenge to conservationists as they try to reconcile the cultural dimensions of such activities. Quantifying the impact of traditional activities on biodiversity is always helpful for decision making in conservation. In the case of snake charming in Morocco, the practice was introduced there 500 years ago by the religious order the Aissawas, and is now an attraction in the country's growing tourism industry. As a consequence wild snake populations may be threatened by overexploitation. The focal species for snake charming, the Egyptian cobra Naja haje, is undergoing both range and population declines. We estimated the level of exploitation of snakes based on field surveys and questionnaires administered to Aissawas during 2003–2014, and compared our results with those of a study conducted 25 years previously. Aissawas use four venomous and four non-venomous species for snake charming and we estimate they harvest a minimum of 4,500 individuals annually, mostly venomous snakes. For exhibition purposes they selectively remove the largest specimens from the wild (i.e. those that could have the highest reproductive output). Compared to the previous data, we detected (1) a reduction in the number of species collected, (2) an increased distance to collecting fields, and (3) an increase in the market price for snakes, after correction for accumulated inflation, signifying a higher demand for these animals.



Journal: Oryx

DOI: 10.1017/S0030605316000910