Animal prints are all the rage this season, and reptilian fabrics in particular hold an exotic appeal. But what about the animals from which these fabrics are modeled (or sometimes harvested) from? We’ll take you through all the top types of reptile fabric and the scaly creatures that inspired them.
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Snakes, including Pythons and Cobras:
Pythons are some of the most popular snakes in the fashion industry, contributing to innumerous handbags, clothing and shoes. Some python handbags can warrant three hundred dollars or more, while python belts can cost in the hundreds. The boa constrictors of South America’s tropical forests have also suffered dearly at the hands of skin hunters there. Though snakeskin providers allege that their snakes are raised on farms, the truth is that most snakes are hunted by villagers in Indonesia for meager profit. The snake is often brutally killed by a meat hook or nail to the head, at which point an incision is made to the length of the snake so that the skin can be pulled off in one piece. The skinned snakes are left to die a slow, agonizing death.
Crocodilians, including Alligators and Crocodiles:
Though they possess a lifespan of thirty to fifty years, it takes only three years for an alligator to reach the marketable size of five to seven feet on a farm. Despite having been on the endangered species list a few decades ago, alligator hides are still lucrative for the fashion industry. Farms established all across the United States raise alligators to be slaughtered for their skins. As a Trustee of the Reptile Protection Trust, scientist Clifford Warwick laments the reptiles’ treatment on these farms, illuminating that the gators are often skinned alive for the sake of handbags and coats. According to numbers provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Federation, the alligator hide business quadrupled from 1987 to 1995, wherein 200,000 hides were produced; Britain imported four hundred some skins that year alone.
Often crocodiles are farmed in America as well, and meet the same fate as their alligator comrades. Taking a chisel to their spinal cord, the farmers paralyze the reptiles and begin to cut into their skin as they die. Alternatively, the crocodiles may be clubbed to death with a bludgeon by farmers. Crocodiles are also raised in South Africa, Israel and China for their skin. It’s estimated that two million hides are harvested annually worldwide, but this does not include those skins harvested illegally from crocodilian creatures like the Indonesian Komodo dragon or Philippine monitor lizard, also farmed for skin.
While crocodiles declined to the point of being considered endangered species, lizards began to be used in their stead. Lizards, like snakes, play an important role in the ecosystem. Whereas snakes help contain disease and crop damage by keeping the rodent population in check, lizards do the same in regards to insect populations. Argentinean Red Tegu lizards have been exported in the millions for leather trade, dramatically contributing to the species’ overall decline. Meanwhile, African monitor lizards have also been slaughtered in vast amounts for their skin. The radiant skins of the Amazon Basin’s Caiman Lizards are also south after for boots, such as those manufactured by the Tony Lama Boot Company. One pair of boots required the skin of four lizards and could have a price tag of up to a thousand dollars.
Though it threatens the lives of several rare species of reptiles, the luxury reptile trade nevertheless continues to thrive. Consumers need to be aware of the living creatures whose lives are sacrificed for the sake of their wardrobe. Rather than support the brutalization of these animals, consumers should try to buy faux reptile fabrics, like mock-croc and faux snakeskin goods, as well as materials like PVC, patent leather, and other artificial, man-made materials.