CAMEROONIAN Customs authorities have arrested a Nigerian and two local men for attempting to smuggle 80 cobras and vipers to London from Douala aboard an Air France commercial flight.
In the first such case of its kind, the men were arrested at the airport in Cameroon’s commercial hub Douala for trying to use fake papers to get their cargo out. Jean-Claude Ekoube, a spokesman for Cameroon’s customs service, said that the snakes had been transported in picket packing containers marked venomous.
Apparently, the men were booked on an Air France flight from Douala to London via Paris but were arrested before they could board. It is not yet clear if the men were planning to sell the serpents on the open market of if they were supplying them to a private exotic pets collector.
European exotic pet collectors tend to pay handsomely for tropical African animals such as snakes, lizards, Madagascar’s prized radiated tortoises and the African gray parrots, renown for its impressive vocal abilities. After an animal is plucked from the wild, often illegally, it might be used in a breeding operation, sold locally, smuggled out of the country, or intentionally mislabelled as captive-bred.
This multi-million dollar trade has fuelled poaching across Africa, leading to the cruel slaughtering of bigger animals like elephants and rhinos for their ivory. Apart from the fact that this decimates wild animal populations, the trade is also a health hazard as exotic pets sometimes attack their owners or spread disease, such as ebola and Sars.