Reptile farming as a response to livelihood insecurity in the Mekong Delta

Patrick Aust
Publicado: 18 Noviembre 2022
Última edición: 18 Noviembre 2022
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Extreme weather events and disease outbreaks represent growing threats to chicken and pig farmers in the Mekong delta. As an alternative, reptiles are a popular choice for many of the  21 million residents. Because of the physioloigcal efficiency attributes of reptiles (e.g., ectothermic or “cold-blooded”), many reptile production models have the potential to be economically viable and ecologically sustainable. A study published in 2009 in the International Journal of Food Microbiology found that the most significant microbiological risk associated with eating reptiles is Salmonella, and a growing body of evidence suggests birds and mammals represent the greatest zoonotic disease threat. In effect, reptile farming helps to build resilience in local agri-food systems and minimise the prevalence of zoonotic diseases.


América Central
Asia del Este
Sudeste Asiático
África Occidental y Central
África Oriente y África del Sur
Scale of implementation
Campos de cultivo
Acceso y participación en los beneficios
Actores locales
Adaptación al cambio climático
Gestión de residuos
Medios de vida sostenibles
Servicios ecosistémicos
One Health
Sanidad animal
El vínculo entre biodiversidad y salud
Sistemas alimentarios
Aspectos sanitarios ligados a factores socioeconómicos, tales como: La pobreza, la educación, las estructuras de seguridad social, la digitalización, los sistemas de financiación y el desarrollo de la capacidad humana
Enfermedades tropicales desatendidas, enfermedades infecciosas emergentes, enfermedades no transmisibles, zoonosis y resistencia a los antimicrobianos
Ciclones tropicales / tifones
Usos conflictivos / impactos acumulativos
Desarrollo de Infraestructura
Extracción de recursos físicos
Cambios en el contexto socio-cultural
Falta de infraestructura
Falta de capacidad técnica
Sustainable development goals
ODS 1 - Fin de la pobreza
ODS 2 - Hambre cero
ODS 3 - Salud y bienestar
ODS 8 - Trabajo decente y crecimiento económico
ODS 9 - Industria, innovacióne e infraestructura
ODS 10- Reducción de las desigualidades
ODS 11 - Ciudades y comunidades sostenibles
ODS 12 - Producción y consumo responsables
Aichi targets
Meta 1: Aumento de la sensibilization sobre la biodiversidad
Meta 2: Valores de biodiversidad integrados
Meta 3: Incentivos reformados
Meta 4: Producción y consumo sostenibles
Meta 7: Agricultura, acuicultura y silvicultura
Meta 8: Reducción de la contaminación
Meta 14: Los servicios ecosistemicos
Meta 16: Acceso y distribución de los beneficios de los recursos genéticos
Meta 19: Intercambio de información y conocimiento
Marco de Sendai
Meta 1: Reducir la mortalidad global por desastre para 2030
Meta 2: Reducir el número de personas afectadas a nivel global para 2030
Meta 3: Reducir las pérdidas económicas directas por desastre en relación al PIB para 2030
Business engagement approach
Compromiso directo con una empresa
Compromiso directo con asociaciones
(I)NDC Submission


Mekong Delta, Vietnam | Thailand, China, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Kenya, United States, Namibia, Australia, Cambodia, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil.


Vietnam has a rich culinary history in agrobiodiversity, including the consumption of reptiles. Challenges such as droughts, heatwaves, pandemics, greenhouse gas emission, and resource deficiencies are undermining mainstream livestock industries. Commercial bottlenecks and investment bias towards conventional corporate livestock systems have handicapped the development of localised, more sustainable and resilient alternatives such as reptile farming. 


Primary beneficiaries include farmers in the Mekong Delta and the communities they support. Secondary beneficiaries include billions people in tropical countries who traditionally eat reptile meat.

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

 Legal and policy frameworks are essential prerequisites for reptile farming. These are not always easy to develop given the temporal and spacial proximity to stringent conservation regulations and wildlife trade laundering. Education and awareness at all stakeholder levels are important to justify legal and policy frameworks and consider the interactions with broader sustainablity criteria (e.g., conservation, environment pollution risks, and social upliftment). Farming reptiles requires specialist skills and considerations. Resolving the lack of skills and precedent amongst the farming community requires training and capacity development. Once equipped with technical knowhow, low start-up and running costs coupled with diverse business opportunities provide small-scale farmers with an attractive proposition. Mitigating risks associated with human and animal health will require ongoing multidisiplinary and cross-cutting research in areas such as water pollution and infectous diseases linked to reptile production systems.


As ectotherms, reptiles are physiologically different to humans. Zoonotic disease transmission requires mutually compatible physiological environments. Reptiles are carriers of zoonotic bacteria such as Salmonella, but they have never been linked to any major viral pandemics. 


Reptiles require ~90% less food inputs compared to warm-blooded livestock. The metabolic efficiency of reptiles means that production systems typically require less food and freshwater compared to warmblooded livestock. They also produce comparatively little waste or greenhouse gasses.


That said, emperical evidence on the broader risks to human health (e.g., wild harvested rodents fed to captive reptiles) and environmental sustainaibliy (e.g., water pollution) is lacking and requires further investigation. 


The ability to regulate metabolic rate allows some reptile species to drink and feed intermittently. Flexible metabolic rates help to dampen the impacts of volatile supply chains. For example, pythons can survive for several months without food or water, and are thus able to withstand the impacts of extreme weather events.


Reptile meat is high in protein and low in saturated fats. Reptile farms provide a source of nutrient-dense food in parts of the world where malnutrition and childhood stunting are increasing due to poverty.


Patrick Aust

Nguyen Van Tri is a farmer near Cau Mau in the Mekong Delta. He owns 10 acres on which he grows rice, vegetables, and bananas. He has two fish ponds and raises a small number of ducks and chickens around his homestead. The produce from his farm feeds his family of six and generates a small profit. In recent years, drought, storm surge, and salinization from a neighbouring shrimp farm have reduced his rice harvest. Disease has also taken a toll on his poultry. Five years ago he started snake farming after reading an article in the local newspaper. He bought his initial stock from a breeding farm near Ho Chi Minh City and built cages using cheap, local materials. It was easy to set up, and because he feeds his snakes on rodent pests he traps around his rice fields, his running costs are minimal. The work is easy and requires comparatively few inputs. Mr. Nguyen doesn’t have to rely so heavily on his rice harvest anymore, and because his snakes can survive months without food, he doesn’t have to worry about fluctuations in the local rodent population; he simply feeds as much as he can whenever he can. Recently he bought a new moped with the money he made from the sale of snake skins. To celebrate, Mrs Nguyen cooked a snake hot pot using a traditional recipe passed down by her grandmother.

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Patrick Aust Backyard Pythons