A Czech man was apprehended in Argentina attempting to smuggle a suitcase containing 247 animals, many of them exotic creatures, on board a transatlantic flight on December 7. 51-year-old Karel Abelovsky was attempting to board a flight to Madrid from Buenos Aires when baggage X-ray technicians and airport staff discovered that his suitcase contained 200 reptiles and mollusks including nine species of poisonous snakes (among them, South American pitvipers) and 15 venomous vipers, including two yararas which can be up to five feet long and several young boas.
Many of the animals were packed in clear plastic containers. Two were found dead and many more would most likely not have survived the flight due to a lack of oxygen, if the suitcase had been placed in the airplane’s cargo area.
Some of these animals are reportedly very rare and, indeed, protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Abelovsky has been charged with attempted smuggling and could face up to ten years in prison. He is suspected to be part of an exotic species smuggling ring.
The July 25 Guardian lists a number of other instances of exotic animal smuggling, including 431 turtles, crocodiles and tortoises and a tiger cub concealed among a load of stuffed tiger toys in the suitcase of a Thai woman seeking to travel to Iran. Indeed, rare-animal trafficking is Thailand’s second most lucrative illegal trade after drugs, according to a spokesman for the country’s environmental crimes unit; Thailand has indeed become an “international hub” for the illegal animal trade. While rare animals are usually sold as pets in Middle Eastern countries and also in Spain, they are sought after in East Asia for their purported medicinal value. While species trafficking is a crime in many countries, the penalties can vary widely and many countries lack sufficient resources to enforce their laws.
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Photo of a pitviper from Costa Rica by ggalice