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London Zoo places handbag on display to raise poaching awareness

To make a clear statement about animal poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, the London Zoo has displayed a brown crocodile skin bag where its Siamese crocodiles usually reside.

Visiting London Zoo presents an exciting opportunity to observe some of the world’s most elusive creatures without ever having to leave the concrete jungle.

What you wouldn’t expect to spot is a designer, crocodile leather handbag positioned behind the layer of glass separating you from the enclosure. Yet that’s exactly what you’ll find on a trip to the London Zoo.

The London Zoo is cleverly drawing attention to the illegal wildlife trade by displaying a croc-leather handbag in place of its Siamese crocodiles, which have become virtually extinct in the wild due to poaching.

Next to information on the species of crocodile is a sign stating: ‘This bag used to be found swimming in slow-moving rivers and streams across Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

Over the last 75 years, more than 80% of Siamese crocodiles have disappeared. Many, like this one, were hunted for their skins as part of the illegal wildlife trade.

Though the handbag has been in place for several years, it recently shocked an unsuspecting visitor who then shared the spectacle on Twitter – going viral due to its hard-hitting message almost overnight.

The London Zoo’s curator of reptiles and amphibians, Ben Tapley, confirmed that the handbag was donated after being confiscated at a UK airport. Customs officers had hoped that it could serve as a memorable learning point for visitors to the site.

It’s an effective, in-your-face reminder that Siamese crocodiles, along with many other species, are being driven to the brink of extinction for no benefit beyond satisfying the desires of human aesthetics.


The use of crocodile and other reptile skins in fashion is nothing new. They became widely sought after during the 1950s and their use in handbags and clothing has continued well into the 21st century.

But as consumers have become increasingly conscious of how their actions impact the planet and all its inhabitants, many brands have started to feel pressure from the public to remove these materials from their products.

Chanel, famous for its use of pelts in both handbags and apparel, only announced it would stop using the material in 2018. According to the fashion house, it became increasingly difficult to find suppliers that met its criteria of ethical standards.

Still, Hermes and Louis Vuitton are two major brands that have yet to discontinue the scaly pelts of snakes and crocodiles in their lines, which regularly lands them in hot water with environmental activists and animal rights campaigners.

Replacements for animal pelts and furs continue to improve, strengthening with it the argument for switching to more sustainable practices. It’s great to see zoos and wildlife centres joining in on that important fight.


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