WCS is working with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration (FiA) to develop a strategy for the sustainable harvesting of watersnakes in the Tonle Sap Lake. This comes after research indicated that the emergent snake 'fishery' occurring on Tonle Sap Lake resulted in an estimated 6.9 million snakes (mostly homalopsids) being removed annually, representing the world's largest exploitation of a single snake assemblage. Interviews with hunters suggest that snake catches could have declined by as much as 80% between 2000 and 2005, raising strong concerns about the sustainability of this hunting operation.
A workshop was held in late 2008 to discuss the threat of snake hunting and trade on Tonle Sap, and to examine future management options for the sustainable use of snakes. As a result a series of recommendations to prevent the continuing decline of this resource was produced.
The workshop focused on the results of a long-running study on the hunting and trade of water snakes from Tonle Sap Lake. This study has important implications for the management of natural resources within the Tonle Sap Basin. The study took place over a period of four years, from 2004 to 2008, and was conducted in collaboration with both FiA and MoE. Monitoring programs set up during this study are now being conducted by WCS and continue to provide catch and trade statistics. This study uses variables such as the life history traits of water snakes and the timing of the hunting season to make predictions concerning the sustainability of the exploitation.