Snakes on a plane – for real?

First it was monkeys, and now this. A Malaysian man pleaded guilty to smuggling after 95 live boa constrictors burst out of his bag on a luggage belt in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last week.

Ken Liang “Anson” Wong, 52, was charged with exporting the snakes without a permit, said Shamsuddin Osman, a Malaysian wildlife department official. He will face six months in prison and the equivalent of a $50,000 fine, said Faridz Gohim Abdullah, a prosecuting officer representing Malaysia’s wildlife department. The maximum fine for this crime is up to seven years in jail.

Previously, Wong was sentenced to nearly six years in a U.S. prison in 2001 after he was found guilty of running an animal smuggling ring between Asia and Africa. He was arrested in Mexico in 1998. It is unknown if he served the full six-year sentence.

The most recent arrest took place as Wong was en route to Jakarta, Indonesia. The bag was also found to contain several other snakes and a turtle.

The criminal charges involve the boa constrictors only, because the other animals are not listed as endangered. All of the animals are alive and under the care of wildlife officials, Shamsuddin said.

In July, parliament passed a new law to punish poachers and smugglers more severely, but the act has not yet taken effect.

Activists are urging the government to seek the maximum seven year sentence against Wong, but it prosecutor Abdullah said he was planning to discuss with other government authorities whether to appeal the court’s ruling and seek a tougher sentence.

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