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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Live python found in airport bin

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

In the 10 years since the state placed amnesty bins at Honolulu airport to give passengers a last chance to discard illegal items, never had any live animal been found.

This ball python, found yesterday in an amnesty bin at Honolulu Airport, will likely be sent to a Mainland zoo.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Until Sunday night.

During a routine check of the bin at baggage claim D, Department of Agriculture inspector Tim Yamaki found a foot-long ball python coiled around metal tongs used to sift through the contraband. The bins typically contain fruits, vegetables and trash.

"It was definitely smuggled onto an airplane," said Lisa Nakayama, a state agriculture specialist. She said it would be nearly impossible to determine which flight brought the creature because the bins are checked just once a day. An air sickness bag with holes also was found in the bin, and Nakayama speculated that the snake may have been kept in it. She said Yamaki was "very excited and very shocked" when he saw the snake.

Snakes have a skeleton and should have showed up on an airport X-ray machine, Nakayama said. Animals are supposed to be declared before passengers board a flight and no one knows how this snake snuck through the security.

Airport manager Stanford Miyamoto said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for screening prohibited plants and animals. Since this snake came from outside Hawai'i, he said he wasn't sure what security measures were breached to allow a live snake on a plane.

This was the second ball python found in Hawai'i in the past year. Last June, a 2-foot-long snake was found in a Pacific Palisades home.