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The Globe and Mail

The gritty business of transforming live snakes into handbags

Indonesian workers are sometimes up to their ankles in reptiles as they slaughter, skin, cure, dye and sew.

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Workers hold snakes for skinning at a snake slaughterhouse in Kapetakan village near Cirebon, Indonesia’s West Java province, Feb. 8, 2013.


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Snakes are prepared for drying in an oven at the slaughterhouse, which produces snake meat and skins.


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Wakira, also known as ‘Boss Cobra,’ owns the slaughterhouse; he holds a cobra before killing it.


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Workers hold a snake before slaughtering it. Snake meat is believed by some to be a remedy for skin diseases and asthma, as well as an aid to virility.


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Workers use scissors to cut the skins, which will be used to make handbags, shoes, wallets and belts.


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A worker pours water on snakes before cutting the skins. Wakira employs ten workers and earns up to 15 million rupiah ($1,562 U.S.) a month from the factory’s production.


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Workers hold a snake before killing it at the slaughterhouse.


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A worker skins a dead snake.


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A tray of snakes dries inside an oven. The slaughterhouse sells hundreds of metres of snake skins to bag factories in the West and Central Java provinces on a monthly basis.


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Wakira smokes a cigarette as pieces of dried snake skin hang in front of his slaughterhouse.


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A worker carries a board with pieces of snake skin ready for drying at a factory that produces handbags at Comal district in Pekalongan, Indonesia’s Central Java province, Feb. 9, 2013. The factory gets its snake skins from Wakira.


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A worker holds a piece of snake skin after a colouring process at the factory in Comal. The price of a bag made from snake skin costs between 150,000 rupiah ($15.60 U.S.) and 300,000 rupiah ($31.20), depending on its size.


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A worker sews a bag made of snake skin at a factory producing bags in Comal district.


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Sunarto, the owner of a factory producing bags, examines a finished bag made of snake skin at his factory in Comal district in Pekalongan.


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