Custom officials at India’s Tiruchirappalli International Airport (TRZ) have seized 47 pythons and two lizards from a passenger’s luggage.
The passenger, identified as a local man, was returning from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He managed to smuggle exotic reptiles in the concealed boxes and travel on board the four-hour Batik Air Flight.
However, after the plane landed, a noticeable movement in the passenger’s bags drew the attention of airport authorities at Tiruchirappalli. Upon inspection, they discovered live snakes of various species and sizes and several lizards.
The authorities detained the passenger for further questioning.
Meanwhile, the seized reptiles were confiscated and are set for a return journey to Malaysia, as reported by the local media outlet, India Today.
A similar incident took place in April 2023, when a female passenger arriving from Kuala Lumpur was caught with 22 snakes hidden in her luggage and detained at Chennai International Airport (IATA) in India.
According to a report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) more than 70,000 native and exotic animals or parts were trafficked through 18 Indian airports between 2011 and 2020.
“India is among the top ten countries in terms of using the airline sector for wildlife trafficking,” said Atul Bagai, head of the UNEP in India. “This is an unwanted accolade.”
Furthermore, weak penalties for legal violations have made wildlife smuggling easier in India.
The present trade of exotic animals is not regulated by India’s 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, creating a legal loophole. When it was initially introduced, the emphasis was on protecting native biodiversity rather than dealing with invasive or introduced species.