Published 8 February 2013


More than 2000 live snakes seized in Bangkok Airport

Bangkok, Thailand, 8th February 2013—Predictions for the Year of the Snake which begins on Sunday, say it isn’t a good one for those born under that Chinese Zodiac sign. It may also be a bad year for its namesake if a seizure of over 2,000 snakes in the Suvarnabhumi Airport last night is anything to go by.

More than 2,000 live snakes were seized in Thailand after the shipment had been rejected by Hong Kong.  © Panjit Tansom / TRAFFIC

More than 2,000 rat snakes and cobras, packed in blue mesh bags which were in turn hidden in over 200 polystyrene boxes, were part of a shipment declared as fresh fruit.

The shipment had been flown to Hong Kong on 5th February where it was rejected by Hong Kong Customs and returned to Thailand as it lacked documentation. 

Thailand’s CITES officials and Airport of Thailand officers co-operated to access the shipment upon its arrival in Bangkok. The boxes were then then inspected by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and found to contain the snakes.

Authorities told a press conference that the shipment belonged to exporter AK International Co Ltd.

The case is being investigated under the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act (WARPA) and Thai Customs Laws. Snake species involved are protected under Thai laws and CITES legislation.

TRAFFIC urged authorities in Thailand and Hong Kong to work together towards determining the parties behind the shipment.

This seizure follows the discovery of 600 deadly cobras in the back of a truck at a checkpoint south of Bangkok last November. A suspect arrested in this case confessed to authorities that he was delivering the snakes to northeast Thailand where they were to be smuggled over the border into Laos. 

The snakes were inside bags packed into more than 200 polystyrene boxes. ©  Panjit Tansom / TRAFFIC

Zodiac animal themed items are usually in high demand every Chinese New Year. While these are usually decorations and trinkets made in the image of animals, occasionally the animal itself is in demand.

News reports in Malaysia for instance, have quoted pet shop owners saying that they are seeing an increased demand for pet snakes, with one shop reporting sales of 30 snakes in recent days.
Snakes are traded for their skins, meat, gall bladder and venom. Large seizures of illegally traded snakes are common in the region.

The trade in snakes in Asia was the subject of a meeting that took place in Guangzhou, China, in April 2011. Some 60 experts representing close to 20 governments and international and national organizations, including TRAFFIC, met to consider conservation priorities and management and enforcement needs related to the trade in snakes. The outputs of the meeting will be discussed at next month’s 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).