Customs officers on Thursday seized seven exotic species of juvenile pythons and lizards from two passengers who arrived from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia at the Anna International airport in the city.
The officers monitored the duo, who collected their check-in luggage–one stroller bag each, and walked in a hurried manner.
Then, the officials intercepted the passengers, Mohammad Parvaez (36) of Ramanathapuram and Mohammad Akbar (28) of Sivaganga, who arrived from Kuala Lumpur in a Batik Airways flight.
As their replies were evasive when questioned, the officials opened their two stroller bags and found a big yellow plastic toy concealed inside chocolates, gift items and clothes.
When the toys were opened, some cloth bags tied with rope were found inside. Inside them, some reptiles were found. When questioned further, they said that the bags were given to them by some persons outside Kuala Lumpur airport. The accused were asked to hand them over to some unidentified men outside the Chennai airport. The duo was taken outside the airport, however, no one turned up to receive the bags even after waiting for a considerable amount of time.
Following this, Forest officers of the wildlife division were called to identify the reptile species. Seven reptile species were identified and they included green tree python (Morelia viridis), scrub python (Morelia amethistina), both native of Australia and not covered under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). They also seized two black tree monitor lizards (Varanus beccarii), five emerald tree monitor lizards (Varanus prasimus), two blue spotted tree monitor lizards (Varanus macraei) and one reisinger tree monitor (Varanusreisingeri) and four sailfin lizards (Hydrosaurus species).
The lizards were native of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Philippines and fall under CITES Appendix II. A team of veterinary doctors were called from Arignar Anna Zoological Park, who examined and found the animals to be in a healthy condition.
Animal quarantine officials recommended to deport the wildlife species back to the country of origin as the passengers did not have any NOC/DGFT license for importing them into India.
The wildlife species were seized under the provisions of the Customs Act 1962 read with The Foreign Trade (Development & Regulations) Act. Both the passengers were detained. The seized reptiles will be sent back to Kuala Lumpur. Further investigations are on.