Scales of justice

Man attempts to smuggle reptiles in socks from Hungary

Authorities foil attempt to bring three lizards and two snakes into the country, stashed in plastic containers, tin foil and socks

A small lizard that was smuggled into Israel from Hungary by a young Israeli and was seized during an operation at Ben Gurion Airport, January 2023. (Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry spokesperson)
A small lizard that was smuggled into Israel from Hungary by a young Israeli and was seized during an operation at Ben Gurion Airport, January 2023. (Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry spokesperson)

An Israeli man was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport while trying to smuggle three lizards and two snakes into the country.

The man, in his 20s, tried to hide the animals inside plastic containers, tin foil, and even socks, as seen in pictures and a video made public on Monday by the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry.

He was arrested several days ago upon returning from Hungary, in a joint operation by representatives of the Agriculture Ministry, Tax Authority, Nature and Parks Authority and Border Police.

Importing wildlife into Israel without the necessary permits, which include import and health certificates issued by the Agriculture Ministry, is considered a felony and can incur a substantial fine and up to two years in prison.

The smuggled reptiles will be returned to their country of origin, the ministry said.

“In recent years we’ve learned the hard way the importance of preventing the spread of diseases from animals to people. It is our duty to ensure that animal import is carried out legally and does not pose a health hazard to the public and to the animals themselves,” said Dr. Tamir Gashan, acting director of Veterinary Services at the Agriculture Ministry.

 

“A list of the variety of species allowed for holding, trade and import in Israel can be found on the Nature and Parks Authority’s website,” added Uri Liniel, head of the Wildlife Trade and Holding Department at the authority.

The illegal smuggling of wildlife poses a potential threat to public health while endangering local fauna and other animal species.

 

In 2019, Israeli authorities uncovered a warren of dozens of reptiles and amphibians crammed into a small central Tel Aviv apartment, as part of a worldwide crackdown on animals being sold on the exotic pet black market.

Global wildlife crime is worth about $150 billion annually and is fourth in value among illegal global trades behind drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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