Story By: Kathryn Quinn, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
Customs officials who put this suitcase through an X-ray machine was stunned to discover it contained socks stuffed with almost 100 moving snakes and other rare reptiles.
The items were in the luggage of a man from Austria who lives in the Philippines, was travelling to a reptile convention in Germany where he hoped to find buyers for the exotic collection.
He was checked when he landed in Vienna at the city’s Schwechat airport because officials thought he was acting suspiciously. As a result, his luggage was put through a scanner before he was allowed to continue the journey to Germany, and the discovery was made.
As well as the 43 live snakes there were also 45 other living reptiles. The haul included two Samar cobras (Naja samarensis) and 18 Asian water monitors (Varanus salvator), which are a protected species, as well as other, non-protected, venomous snakes and geckos.
The other snakes included an unspecified type of coral snake, bamboo vipers (Trimeresurus albolabris), snakes described as “brown Philippine adders” and “mangrove night tree adders”.
A spokesperson for the Finance Ministry that is responsible for managing staff at the customs said: “The image produced during an X-ray scan already suggested to customs officers that live animals were contained in the suitcase.”
The man then warned officials that some of the snakes were highly poisonous.
They added: “As a result experts from Schoenbrunn Zoo were then brought in.”
The passenger had flown into Vienna from Manila via Doha and intended to travel to Germany to sell the reptiles at a reptile fair, according to reports.
The entire haul is now being kept at both Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo and the Reptilienzoo Happ in Klagenfurt, in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia.
The customs officials confirmed that the Austrian expat faces charges for a breach of the Austrian Act governing the International Trade in Endangered Animal and Plant Species and for smuggling under the Fiscal Offences Act.
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