A novel approach of using shed skins of the green tree python, Morelia viridis, for forensic purposes


  • Jitka Kufnerova Institute for Environmental Studies, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Charles University Prague, Benátská 2, 128 01 Prague 2, Czech Republic




captive vs. wild, forensics, Morelia viridis, shed snakeskin


Green tree python (Morelia viridis, Schlegel 1872) is a highly sought-after Indonesian/Papuan NG/Australian species in terms of the international trade in reptile pets. As the trade in wild animals is mostly prohibited nowadays, captive breeding supplies the international pet trade. There is evidence that captive breeding might be used as a cover for specimen’s illegally sourced from the wild, as there are very few possibilities of distinguishing wild from captive-bred animals. These rely on invasive sampling (cutting off the end of the tail in order to obtain a sample of blood/muscle/bone tissues) or presence of ecto- and/or endoparasites (method overcome by breeders housing animals in semi wild conditions). Therefore, we examined the possibility of using stable isotope analysis for determining: either the place of origin or diet as a means of defining whether they are captive bred or illegally sourced from the wild. We also review the use of non-invasive samples of shed (moulted) skins. We conclude that shed skins that are currently not used for identifying the source of green tree python could be used as forensic evidence, subject to the development of a viable method.