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Snakes on a plane! Malaysian reptile trafficker busted at airport

A notorious reptile smuggler has been busted at Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Airport after his luggage was found to contain 98 snakes and a turtle, reports the Malaysian Star.

Anson Wong, made famous in The Lizard King, a book by Bryan Christy that exposed his trafficking activities, was taken into custody by police after being detained by Malaysia Airlines security staff on Thursday night. His bag reportedly contained about 95 boa constrictors, two rhinoceros vipers and one matamata turtle. Wong was trying to fly to Indonesia.

The case is now being investigated the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN). Wong will be held until August 31.

Emerald boas are commonly smuggled despite captive breeding populations in the U.S. and Europe. Photo by Rhett Butler

Wong has been in trouble with the law before. In 2000 he plead guilty to wildlife trafficking in the US and was sentenced to 71 months in jail. Meanwhile last year authorities in the United States raided U.S. Global Exotics, a pet supplier that had been sourcing its animals from Wong’s company, CBS Wildlife and Sungai Rusa Wildlife. Nevertheless Malaysian authorities have generally been hesitant to interfere in his operations, according to The Lizard King. In his latest arrest, Wong’s contacts at the PERHILITAN reportedly tried to free him before news of his arrest reached the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Datuk Douglas Uggah.

Malaysia remains a major hub for the illegal wildlife trade. According to TRAFFIC, earlier this week authorities at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport seized two metric tons of elephant ivory and five rhino horns, which were about to be illegally shipped to Malaysia. In the past four years, more than 10,000 kg of illegal elephant ivory have been seized after passing through Malaysia.

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