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

Image of Chinese customs officials holding bags of snakes seized at Futian port, shared on July 9, 2024

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

According to Chinese customs, a man was arrested at the Chinese border this week after trying to smuggle 104 live snakes in his pants.

The animal trader had attempted to bypass the “no-declaration route” at a port between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, officials said in a statement Tuesday.

When officers inspected his pants, they discovered six sealed bags containing various exotic snakes, including milk snakes, western hognose snakes, corn snakes, Texas rat snakes and bull snakes.

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

Although none of the snakes were venomous, at least four species are considered non-native to China, which could violate Chinese biosafety laws.

Customs said it would hold the man legally accountable in accordance with the law, but did not specify an exact penalty.

Snakes seized by Chinese customs officials at Futian port and reported on July 9, 2024

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

Although it is also illegal to transport or deliver live animals to China, such cases are not uncommon.

At the same intersection in 2023, a woman was reportedly arrested when she tried smuggle in five pet snakes hidden in her bra.

Earlier this month, customs officials reported that someone tried to smuggle more than 400 hermit and land crabs through Shanghai’s Pudong airport. Another person was caught entering a border checkpoint from Macao with bags containing nearly 20 endangered turtles.

Despite attempts to take tough action in terms of trade, China is the largest destination for illegal wildlife trade in the world, according to the Global Organized Crime Index, a project funded by the US and European governments.

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

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a Hong Kong man with attempted 40 protected turtles smuggled from the US to Hong Kong in 2023. Court documents show he had previously smuggled more than 1,500 turtles, with a market value of more than $2 million.

Between 2010 and 2020, Hong Kong Customs has processed more than 1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($128 million) in black market value in traded wildlife products, including nearly 34 tons of ivory, the World Wildlife Fund said.

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