Airport Suitcase Surprise: Venomous Snakes

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Surprised airport workers in
Argentina found hundreds of wriggling poisonous snakes and
endangered reptiles inside the baggage of a Czech man who was about to board a flight to Spain.

Karel Abelovsky, 51, was made to open his baggage at Buenos
Aires' international airport after police spotted reptiles in the
X-ray scanner. They found 247 exotic and endangered species in all,
packed inside plastic containers, bags and even socks, each labeled
in Latin with their scientific names.

"The airport workers couldn't believe it when they saw the
movement inside the suitcase. It was like an animated cartoon," a
source in the office of Judge Marcelo Aguinsky said Tuesday. The
source spoke on condition of anonymity because the judge's
investigation isn't complete.

Abelovsky was released on about $2,500 bail after surrendering
his passport and is refusing to talk even though he faces up to 10
years in prison.

Authorities believe the Czech was a courier for a criminal
organization that smuggles exotic species whose exports are banned,
a judicial source told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Authorities
said Abelovsky only arrived in Argentina several days earlier and
couldn't have had time to gather the animals alone.

Aguinsky believes the boa constrictors, poisonous pit vipers and
coral snakes, lizards and spiders could have escaped the cloth
suitcase in the unpressurized cabin of the Dec. 7 Iberia flight to
Madrid, and perhaps attacked people there or at his final
destination in Prague, where antidotes for South American snakes
aren't common, the source added.

Most of the animals and bugs are being held under quarantine at
the Buenos Aires Zoo, while some of the venomous snakes were sent
to Argentina's national health institute, which has a high-security
department where scientists develop antidotes using venom from
snakes.

The species include lizards native to Mexico and snakes,
spiders, snails and other species from northern Argentina, Paraguay
and Brazil. Some were already dead in the suitcase, while others
have succumbed to stress since then. Many were quite weak on
arrival at the zoo, but most are still alive.

Wild snakes and reptiles are known to carry infectious diseases
and so must be kept apart from the public and other animals, said
Miguel Rivolta, the lead zoo veterinarian.

"It's difficult to find the right kind of bugs they eat, and to
replicate as much as possible their environment in the wild,"
Rivolta said. "The best thing that can happen to these animals is
that they liberate them as soon as possible in their natural
habitat."


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