U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a 30-year-old man after he allegedly attempted to smuggle 52 reptiles into the country from Mexico, NPR reports.
The alleged smuggler, who is a U.S. citizen, was caught with 43 horned lizards and nine snakes in small bags under his clothes, as he attempted to cross the border. The border officers only realized the man was bringing in the animals when they searched him after inspecting his 2018 GMC truck.
CBP Director of Field Operations in San Diego, Sidney Aki, said in a press conference that the smuggler tried to bring the live reptiles into the country without considering their health and safety.
“Smugglers will try every possible way to try and get their product, or in this case live reptiles, across the border,” Aki said. “In this occasion, the smuggler attempted to deceive CBP officers in order to bring these animals into the U.S., without taking care for the health and safety of the animals. CBP enforces hundreds of laws at the border for more than 40 different government agencies, in part to help stop smuggling attempts like these which can lead to trafficking of possibly endangered species.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement also commented on the bizarre situation, thanking Homeland Security for rescuing the animals.
“One of the highest priorities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement is to investigate individuals involved in the unlawful commercial trafficking and smuggling of wildlife here and around the world,” they said. “We would like to thank our partners at HSI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and many others for their cooperative assistance to hold this individual accountable and help protect wildlife species for future generations.”
The reptiles are currently being kept in quarantine since some of them are endangered species. The smuggler has since been arrested and booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center.