John McCoy is the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette’s award-winning outdoors writer. His "Woods & Waters" page appears weekly in the Sports section of the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
In 32 years of outdoors writing, John has had articles published in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, Hatches and other publications. His works have earned more than 50 state, regional and national awards for writing and photography.
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For the record, I’m glad they caught the clown who hid a bunch of poisonous and non-poisonous South American snakes in his suitcase. The poor critters probably wouldn’t have survived the ensuing flight to Spain. The Associated Press writer indirectly quoted a judge who speculated that the snakes might have escaped in the plane’s unpressurized cargo hold and terrorized people in the passenger compartment. More likely they would have died of hypoxia and/or hypothermia.
Here’s the story, from AP:
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.”