Dar es Salaam. Strange as it sounds, but a 34-year-old Kuwait national (name withheld) was arrested at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) with a total of 149 monitor lizards ready to leave the country for Kuwait.
The suspect was arrested in the departure lounge as he was ready to board Emirates airline for Kuwait via Dubai.
Addressing reporters yesterday, Airports Police commander Hamis Selemani said the monitor lizards were in a closed bag.
According to Mr Selemani 15 out of 149 monitor lizards were already dead when police arrested the suspect.
The police in collaboration with officials from the ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources managed to stop the suspect at the departure lounge TB II of JNIA at around 11:20pm on Wednesday.
“When the suspect was checking in, the scanner showed that the bag had some live animals. At first we thought they were snakes, but after inspecting the bag, we found out that they were monitor lizards,” said Mr Selemani.
According to Mr Selemani the monitor lizards were packed in different 15 small packages depending on their size.
Mr Selemani said collectively the monitor lizards are worth Sh6.33 million as each is sold at around $25 (Sh40,000).
He added that, the initial investigation showed that the suspect entered the country on Tuesday
“This indicates that, there is a local syndicate which helped the suspect to collect the monitor lizards at a very short time. He spent just over 24 hours in the country and yet he managed to collect a total of 149 lizards,” said Mr Selemani.
It wasn’t immediately known what the suspect intended to do with the lizards had he managed to sneak them out of the country, Mr Selemani said.
It isn’t the first time that foreigners try to smuggle out live animals through Tanzania airports. In November 2010 more than 136 live animals including a giraffe were smuggled to Qatar by using the country’s military plane.