Snakes in Your Suitcase

According to a story in the China Daily newspaper he craze for unique pets among residents of Guangzhou has created a thriving market for illegally imported animals. The most sought after animals that are found in suitcases for smuggling to North America are snakes and lizards. No wonder we are so concerned about finding ,snakes on a plane., The threat is very real and not just a joke.

Customs officials recently cracked a case in which a South Korean man tried to smuggle 50 boas and 56 lizards into Guangzhou from Jakarta, Indonesia, by air. Customs and anti-smuggling officials spotted 10 suspicious bags and three boxes in his suitcase as his luggage passed through a scanner on December 14. Just even in terms of animal cruelty it is difficult to think what physical effects all of that radiation might have had on those snakes. The airport saner probably sterilized them.

Closer investigation revealed the contraband snakes and lizards. Animal experts said the animals belonged to 10 different species. Sixty-seven of the reptiles were on the appendix ii list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, making them subject to limits when it comes to international trade.

Of course one cannot help but wonder what kind of packing job needed to be done to get so many reptiles into a suitcase and just how happy the snakes might have been to have the suitcase finally opened so they could jump out at the customs officials. With that many snakes in one suitcase it might have been like those novelty cans full of spongy snakes that pop out in your face.

Apparently there is an absolute passion for rare snakes in Guangzhou and this has skyrocketed the price of certain snakes. They have become real status symbols. It is much cheaper to have a snake or two smuggled in for you as they cost two thirds less than the normal price for a snake in this Chinese province. This is how this lucrative smuggling business ever came to be in the first place.

Chen Xi, vice-president of an environmental protection society at South China Agricultural University, said it had become a fad among local residents to own unique pets, rather than the more traditional cats and dogs. This is causing a scary number of non-indigenous animals to be imported into the country which of course could be of great damage to natural species if they were somehow let loose. It only takes one pregnant animal escaping to cause havoc and a disturbance to an entire eco system. Not only would these important snakes be threatening to the population of natural snakes but also to any type of rat or other vermin they may snack on.

His group, the Environmental & Science and Technology Association, launched a one-year study of the trend in August, hoping to measure its impact on the environment.