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Poisonous snakes found in mail

Tue May 15, 9:22 AM ET

South African environmental inspectors discovered 10 poisonous snakes smuggled in video cassette cases when they searched a suspicious package at a post office, officials said on Monday.

Working on a tip-off, the inspectors seized the package from the Czech Republic and opened the cases to find live albino monocle cobras, Arabian saw-scaled vipers, Namibian spitting cobras and Australian Taipans, reputed to be the most poisonous snake on earth.

“All the snakes confiscated are venomous with no anti-venom available in South Africa,” the Gauteng provincial environment department said in a statement.

A criminal case has been opened and the authorities in the Czech Republic and Australia are helping with the investigation, the statement said.

“A potentially deadly tragedy has been averted. You can well imagine what would have happened had the fragile container been broken and the snakes let loose,” Gauteng provincial environment chief Khabisi Mosunkutu said.

Department spokesman Jacques du Toit said the snakes had all been transferred to safekeeping in the Pretoria zoo and were likely ultimately destined for collectors.

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