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Posted by W von Papinešu on November 15, 2002 at 17:39:18:
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Australia) 16 November 02 Snakes alive, smugglers snatched
(DPA): Smugglers of an estimated 600 cobras threw crates of the snakes at police in a high-speed sea chase off Hong Kong, it was reported yesterday.
The South China Morning Post said 15 crates of the snakes, which were being smuggled to restaurants in China, were found on board the smugglers' speedboat when it was apprehended on Thursday.
One smuggler was killed after the chase ended in a collision between the two boats.
The cobras are believed to have been imported legally into Hong Kong from Malaysia by air before the attempt to smuggle them into China.
A source in the Hong Kong police said: "There is a demand for reptiles on the mainland, especially in the winter, because Chinese people believe eating them is good for their health."
The cobras will be put in the care of farms and animal welfare organisations in Hong Kong, the newspaper said.
REUTERS 15 November 02 Cobra Smuggler Dies After Sea Chase
Hong Kong: Smugglers carrying hundreds of live cobras to China hurled some of the snakes at Hong Kong police giving chase at sea and one man died after the vessels collided, a police spokeswoman said Friday.
Two others escaped after the dramatic chase before dawn on Thursday, she said.
About 600 cobras, which were believed to be on the way from southeast Asia to dinner tables in mainland China, are now in the care of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
Smuggling of exotic animals for food to China is common and snakes are a popular delicacy, especially in winter.
Marine police sighted the mainland Chinese man and two other accomplices in a speedboat heading toward southern China and gave chase.
"During the chase, the smugglers hurled some boxes of cobras at the police vessel and some of the snakes fell into the sea," the police spokeswoman said.
"Both vessels later collided and one of the smugglers fell into the water. When police were trying to rescue him, the other two jumped into the sea and swam toward a (waiting) Chinese vessel just across the border," she added.
The man died from internal bleeding, caused possibly by impact from the collision, she said.
Police searched the smugglers' ship and found 27 boxes filled with cobras, which they said were worth around HK$200,000 (US$26,000).
Cobras are declared endangered in Hong Kong and importing or exporting such species without a permit carries a maximum penalty of a year's imprisonment and a HK$500,000 fine.