A man was caught attempting to smuggle around 200 live scorpions out of Sri Lanka.
The Chinese national had packed the venomous arachnids into plastic boxes, but was stopped by customs officials at Bandaranaike International Airport near the capital of Colombo before he boarded his Sri Lankan Airlines flight to Guangzhou.
Authorities suggested the man may have been planning to extract the scorpions’ venom to sell in China.
He was fined 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees (£423) and allowed to continue his journey – minus the scorpions.
Pictures shared by the Colombo Gazette show the arachnids in separate compartments within several different boxes, packed in with tissue.
Sri Lanka is home to 18 species of venomous scorpions, one of which is fatal to humans.
While it is illegal to export live scorpions overseas without a permit, according to Sri Lanka’s Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, wildlife trafficking has become a “lucrative trade”, a spokesperson for Sri Lanka’s customs department Sunil Jayaratne told Geo TV.
“We detained the passenger and launched an investigation,” they said. “We have not placed a value on the 200 scorpions, but trafficking in live wildlife has become a lucrative trade.”
At the last Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference, held in March 2019, Sri Lanka submitted the most proposals out of any single country for extra wildlife protections.
The proposals concerned the preservation of Sri Lanka’s reptiles, fish and arachnids.
Although the export of all reptiles has been prohibited since 1993, the number of documented sales, auctions and online adverts for these species has increased in recent years. They’re mainly sold in Europe as pets.