Mumbai: The Mumbai zonal unit of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has arrested a man for smuggling 11 snakes of rare and endangered species from Bangkok to Mumbai International Airport. The arrest was made on Wednesday, based on confidential information received by the DRI.
According to a DRI official, the man was stopped by the DRI officers when he arrived at the airport from Bangkok. Upon checking his luggage, they found 11 live snakes concealed inside packets of biscuits and cakes. The snakes were wrapped in cloth and plastic bags to avoid detection by the scanners.
The DRI official said that the snakes belonged to two foreign species that are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the import policy of India. CITES is an international agreement that regulates and restricts the trade of certain plants and animals to ensure their survival.
Out of the 11 snakes, nine were identified as ball pythons (Python regius) and two as corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus). Ball pythons are native to Africa and are popular as exotic pets because of their docile nature and variety of patterns and colors. Corn snakes are native to North America and are also kept as pets because of their attractive appearance and easy care. Both species are non-venomous and harmless to humans.
The DRI official said that the smuggled snakes were seized under the Customs Act, 1962, and handed over to the officials of the Western Zone of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in Navi Mumbai for further action. The WCCB is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change that deals with the prevention and detection of wildlife crimes in India.
The WCCB officials confirmed that the snakes were foreign and endangered species and that their import was illegal and in violation of CITES and the import policy. The WCCB regional deputy director issued an order to send the snakes back to Bangkok, where they would be rehabilitated in their natural habitat. The WCCB also registered a case against the smuggler under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which prescribes imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of up to Rs 25,000 for such offenses.
The DRI official said that the arrest of the snake smuggler was part of the ongoing crackdown on the illegal trade of wildlife and their parts and derivatives in India. He said that the DRI has been working closely with the WCCB and other agencies to curb this menace and protect the biodiversity of the country and the world. He appealed to the public to report any suspicious activity or information related to wildlife smuggling to the DRI or the WCCB.