Stunned customs officers at Munich Airport discovered a live albino alligator hidden in a suitcase belonging to an American airline passenger.
The would-be animal smuggler was attempting to take the rare reptile from Munich to Singapore when sharp-eyed security staff noticed an unusual object on the x-ray luggage scanner.
They saw what appeared to be an alligator curled into a crescent shape inside the 42-year-old man’s bag.
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The officials opened the case, to find a three-foot alligator wrapped in cling-film – clearly unwell but still alive.
Two air-holes had been punched into the cling-film wrapper to allow the animal to breathe.
In a statement, Munich Main Customs Office said: "Customs officers confiscated a live albino alligator on 25th September 2022 at Munich Airport.
"While checking luggage, security check employees discovered an unusual X-ray image.
"They immediately informed customs officers, who, when opening the suitcase, found a live white alligator wrapped in cling film. Together with a veterinarian, the customs officers freed the animal and took over first aid.
"Before departing for Singapore, the passenger was located by customs officials. The officials initiated proceedings against the 42-year-old businessman.
"The Munich Customs Investigation Office took over further investigations.
"The animal is currently in the sanctuary for reptiles and will continue to be cared for there."
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The man’s mobile phone was confiscated and he was ordered to pay a substantial security deposit.
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that a criminal investigation is now under way and the man is believed to have violated Germany’s Species Protection and Animal Welfare Act.
The alligator is reported to be in better health now after receiving care from animal experts, according to an October 13 statement from the airport’s customs office.
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Rare animals can fetch a high price in Singapore’s illegal animal markets.
“Many of the species that were being offered for sale are exotic wildlife species that are not allowed to be sold or offered for sale, or kept as pets in Singapore,” explained Dr. Adrian Loo, group director of wildlife management within Singapore’s National Parks Board.
He told the Straits Times that several species that are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora have been offered for sale by illegal traders.
Albino alligators are extremely rare, and wildlife experts estimate there are fewer than 200 in the world, according to a report from the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo, a conservation centre in New Braunfels, Texas.
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