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Leapin' Lizards! Cali Man Busted Smuggling Aussie Reptiles in Money Belt

November 21, 2009 at 12:21 PM | by | ()

Things travelers should put in a money belt: Passport, tickets, cash, emergency contact information. Things travelers should not put in a money belt: lizards. It may seem rather obvious to most readers of this blog, but there's one guy in California who somehow never picked up this basic tenet of travel wisdom. As the LA Times points out, 40-year-old Michael Plank was arrested by U.S. Customs agents at Los Angeles International Airport this week when he was found to have 15 lizards stuffed in a money belt. Plank was on his way back from Australia and apparently decided to bring 11 skinks, two monitor lizards, and two geckos with him to his LA home, where they'd be worth around $8,500.

Incidents like this are both amusing and sad. While the idea of somebody concealing lizards (or birds, snakes, or even monkeys) on their person in an airplane is comical, the illegal animal trade is an icky business, pushing many beautiful creatures to the brink of extinction. If you really need a lizard in your life, consider a visit the reptile section of the Los Angeles Zoo instead of buying one for your home. They've got everything from Chinese alligators to Komodo dragons in funky natural settings, and you don't have to clean up any lizard poop.

As for Plank, he probably got busted because he got greedy. If he was only smuggling one or two geckos, he may have gotten away with it, but 15 lizards is definitely pushing it. It's the politics of contraband I guess. The reptile smugglers blues.

[Photo: duiops.net]

Related Stories:
· Customs Agents Foil Suspected Reptile Smuggler at LAX [LA Times]
· Tour Of a Money Belt [Rick Steves' Europe]
· Smuggling [Jaunted]

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