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For Immediate Release: February 5, 2003


HONOLULU - A passenger aboard a United Airlines flight this past Saturday night declared and turned over a 20-inch rosy boa that he was carrying in his pants pocket. The passenger aboard the United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu declared the snake on the "Plant and Animal Declaration Form," which arriving passengers are required to complete on all flights to Hawaii. A flight attendant reviewing the form questioned the 23-year-old male passenger who said he was not aware that snakes were illegal in Hawaii. The passenger told the flight attendant that he was carrying the snake in a zippered pocket on his pants.

The flight crew informed United Airlines ground crews in Honolulu who alerted the Airport Plant Quarantine Office of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). Two agricultural inspectors were sent to meet the plane, along with two deputies from the Sheriff's Office. The passenger was very cooperative and told the inspectors that he raised the snake from when it was first hatched. The passenger said he was moving to Hawaii and declined the opportunity to send the snake back to the mainland. The snake was turned over to the inspectors and is being safeguarded at the main Plant Quarantine Branch.

"This incident emphasizes the importance of the law that requires all arriving passengers fill out the declaration form," said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairperson for HDOA. "We commend the United Airlines crew for their assistance in intercepting this snake and we appreciate their vigilance in helping us stop invasive species from entering the state."

The department reminds anyone who has information on someone that possesses, transports or releases illegal animals to please contact our PEST HOTLINE at 586-PEST (7378). All calls to the PEST HOTLINE are confidential. The state's Amnesty Program allows persons with illegal animals to voluntarily turn them in and avoid prosecution. Penalties for possession of illegal animals include charges of a class C felony and maximum fine of $200,000, plus three years in prison.

The rosy boa, (Lichanura trivirgata), is native to the desert, brushlands and foothills of California, Arizona and Mexico. As the name implies, it is pink, rose or reddish-brown in color with stripes down the length of the body. The snake may grow up to four feet in length and is a powerful constrictor that preys on small mammals and birds. Another rosy boa was turned in under amnesty on Kauai in early January.

For more information, contact:

Janelle Saneishi
Public Information Officer
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Phone: (808) 973-9560
[email protected]