Man caught smuggling 104 live snakes in his pants at China border

Image of Chinese customs officers holding bags of snakes seized at the Futian Port shared on July 9, 2024

Source: General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China

A man attempting to smuggle 104 live snakes in his pants was caught at a Chinese border this week, according to the country’s customs authority.

The animal trafficker had tried to skirt through a “no declaration channel” at a port between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, officials said in a Tuesday statement. 

Upon inspection of his trousers, officers discovered six sealed bags containing a variety of exotic snakes, including milk snakes, western hognose snakes, corn snakes, Texas rat snakes and bullsnakes. 

An accompanying video showed two border agents holding up large transparent bags filled with the multi-colored live reptiles, often sought out as exotic pets. 

While none of the serpents were venomous, at least four of the species are considered alien to China, which could constitute a violation of Chinese biosafety law. 

The customs authority said it would hold the man legally responsible in accordance with the law without specifying an exact punishment.

Snakes seized by Chinese customs officers at the Futian Port and reported on July 9, 2024

Source: General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China

While it is also illegal to carry or deliver live animals into China, such cases are not uncommon. 

At the same crossing point in 2023, a woman had reportedly been stopped trying to smuggle in five pet snakes hidden inside her bra. 

Earlier this month, customs reported someone attempting to smuggle over 400 hermit and land crabs, through Shanghai’s Pudong airport. A person was also caught entering a border checkpoint from Macao with bags of almost 20 endangered turtles.

Despite efforts to crack down on the trade, China is the largest destination for illegal wildlife trafficking in the world, according to the Global Organized Crime Index, a project funded by the U.S. and EU governments.

The index also identified Hong Kong as a major transit hub for re-exporters in the illegal wildlife trade due to “weak traceability systems.”

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a Hong Kong man with attempting to smuggle 40 protected turtles from the U.S. to Hong Kong in 2023. Court documents alleged he had previously smuggled over 1,500 turtles – with a market value exceeding $2 million.

Between 2010 and 2020, Hong Kong Customs seized more than 1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($128 million) of black market value in trafficked wildlife products, including nearly 34 tonnes of ivory, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

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