Chinese Customs caught man with 104 snakes in his pants

In World


Milk, corn, gopher, Texas rat, and Western hognose snakes are some of the most common snake species in the US. In other parts of the world like China, however, the non-native reptiles are illegal due to their potential to become invasive species. Unfortunately, this has also created a highly lucrative on the exotic pet black market. But despite this, it’s unclear just how much potential profits would drive someone to stuff 104 live snakes into their pants.

That’s what an unnamed man recently attempted after stating he had “nothing to declare” while traveling from Hong Kong into mainland China. As The Washington Post noted on July 11, Chinese authorities announced the arrest after apprehending the alleged smuggler at the Futian Port—one of the busiest land crossings in the world.

Two men examining bags of smuggled snakes
Five species totaling 104 snakes were stored in six bags. Credit: China Customs

According to a Chinese Customs statement from July 9, officers recently discovered six drawstring canvas bags sealed with tape and shoved into the suspect’s pants pockets containing “a number of colorful and various living snakes.”

Despite the statement’s headline auto-translated to “Western Poison,” it’s worth noting none of the five species are actually venomous. But just because they aren’t poisonous doesn’t mean they don’t pose a legitimate threat to the region. Exotic critters often accidentally become invasive species and cause problems for local communities, disrupting already delicate food chains and ecosystems.

Bag filled with smuggled snakes
The suspect could face a fine nearing $7,000 USD. Credit: China Customs

The US is no stranger to such issues. Burmese ball pythons, for example, have inundated the Florida Everglades ever since pet owners began releasing them into the wild in the 1980s. South American nutria continue to decimate vegetation across Louisiana, California, and throughout the Atlantic coast, as well.

There’s also public health to consider. China banned the transport, trade, and poaching of wild animals in January 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—a prohibition that currently remains in effect. Meanwhile, the Biosafety Law of the People’s Republic of China forbids the introduction of any foreign species without official approval.

[Related: Montana traffickers illegally cloned Frankensheep hybrids for sport hunting.]

The recent snake-laden traveler is only one of the most recent in a long line of similar situations, especially since China initiated its three-year crackdown campaign on wildlife smuggling in 2023. Customs officers discovered one woman hiding 15 snakes and four giant Amazonian centipedes in her clothes, and another attempting to sneak five snakes within her tank top over the past year. Chinese law states smugglers such as the recent snake-laden traveler can face fines as large as 50,000 yuan (nearly $7,000) along with potential additional criminal charges.

China is far from the only nation combating wildlife smuggling. In 2022, US officials caught a man attempting to enter the country with 52 lizards and snakes in his clothes.



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