Dozens of Venomous Snakes Seized at Airport Before Being Put on Plane

Dozens of live cobras and vipers have been seized at an airport in Cameroon, moments before a pair of wildlife traffickers tried to take the enormous haul of venomous snakes onboard a flight to London.

A total of 80 snakes were enclosed in an assortment of plastic bottles, plastic pots and bags, all of which had been bundled into a pair of wooden crates that had the word "venomous" scrawled on their sides.

The bottles and pots had been pierced with holes to allow the animals to breathe, though it isn't clear what condition the animals were in when they were uncovered.

Saisie de 80 serpents vivants (cobras et vipères) par la Douane Camerounaise à l'Aéroport International de Douala

— Cameroon Customs (@DGD_CMR) December 7, 2020

A Cameroonian man and a Nigerian man were stopped at MD-Douala International Airport in Douala, Cameroon, when they tried to take their living cargo onboard a flight.

They tried to use "false authorizations" to get past staff, Jean-Claude Ekoube, the head of communications for Cameroonian Customs, told the AFP news agency. The two men have been arrested.

An anonymous airport official said the flight in question was a commercial Air France service from Douala to London, with a stopover in Paris.

The details provided by the customs service were scarce, and it is not clear which specific species of snake were discovered in the haul. Some cobras and vipers are known to be among the deadliest snakes in the world.

The iconic king cobra is the world's longest venomous snake, capable of growing to lengths of more than 13 feet. Its venom is capable of killing a person within 30 minutes.

The echis genus, which is more commonly known as the saw-scaled viper, is meanwhile responsible for more human fatalities than any other type of snake.

In October, Cameroonian Customs caught four ivory smugglers who were trying to transport 118 elephant tusks into the country from Gabon, the biggest ivory seizure in Cameroon for five years.

Seizures of large numbers of live reptiles at airports are not uncommon, according to a report from the United States Agency for International Development Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species partnership, or ROUTES.

121,497 live reptiles were seized at airports between January 2009 and August 2016, across 259 separate incidents, according to the report, with an average of five seizures of more than 1,000 reptiles being reported during each of those years, except 2011.

king cobra venomous snake
A stock image shows a king cobra, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. A haul of 80 cobras and vipers was discovered in Cameroon, as smugglers attempted to board a flight to the U.K. iStock