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Snakes on a plane (almost)

Monday 9 January 2012, 09:39AM

It is the name of a Hollywood blockbuster which is often dismissed as an utterly ridiculous concept.

Yet ‘snakes on a plane’ very nearly became a reality for passengers flying from Buenos Aires airport in Argentina.

Czech man 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 labelled 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 was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

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Abelovsky was released on about B75,000 bail after surrendering his passport, and was refusing to talk even though he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Authorities believe the Czech was a courier for a criminal organisation that smuggles exotic species whose exports are banned. 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 unpressurised cabin of the flight to Madrid, and perhaps attacked people there or at his final destination in Prague, where antidotes for South American snakes are not common, the source added.

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