By Scott Levin
More than three ounces of liquid, scissors, a pocket knife…these are items that are typically found in routine airport security checks. In Argentina, security officials found quite a surprise when they popped open the suitcase of a Czech man.
Buenos Aires airport officials stopped a man headed for Madrid when they found 247 animals in his suitcase during an X-ray security check. Included in those animals were poisonous snakes and some rare species of animals that can be found on endangered species lists.
The incident occurred at the Ezeiza Airport on Dec. 7; however, the findings were just recently announced.
Specifically, 51-year-old Karel Abelovsky’s suitcase contained more than 200 reptiles. Snakes including venomous vipers, yararas, South American pitvipers and boa constrictors were inside in plastic containers. Two of the animals in the suitcase had already died, and many more likely would have perished in the compressed storage compartment of the airplane.
Authorities believe the man was a part of a trafficking ring that specializes in exotic species of animals. Abelovsky has been charged with attempted smuggling, a charge that comes with a possible 10-year jail sentence.
In August, a woman flying to China was stopped by airport security in Los Angeles with unusually baggy clothing. Officers found two birds stuffed in socks and attached to the woman’s leg. One bird was a golden parakeet, an endangered specie of tropical parrots. Also in August, a man with seven snakes and three turtles in his pants was detained in Miami.
Richard Thomas, a coordinator of TRAFFIC, an organization that studies wildlife trade, told ABC news that smugglers will likely be caught, thanks to increased airport security.
“Indications are that (animal smuggling) is something that does seems to be happening more frequently,” Thomas told ABC News. “But it’s difficult to get a handle on whether it’s a growing problem or whether it’s better enforcement we’re seeing.”
TSA will not prohibit certain pets from going through security, provided passengers take the proper steps beforehand. Flight passengers should check with their airline first to find out the regulations for that company. If the pet is allowed on the flight, it should be presented to officials at the security checkpoint where it will be screened. TSA ensures flyers that no pets will be placed on the X-ray belt.