Thai customs officers have seized hundreds of cobras being smuggled through the country for use in traditional medicine as a supposed sexual aid, an official said today.
The 600 deadly wild snakes were discovered in crates on a truck when it was stopped at a checkpoint in the south of the country.
"They were in blue net bags, they could breathe through the net -- there were about five cobras in each bag," the customs officer told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Estimating the total number of snakes at around 600, the officer said a full count would take place on Wednesday night as it was too dangerous to do it without extra help.
The cobras, worth an estimated $16,300, were destined to be used in traditional medicine, the official said.
They are prized in some forms of Chinese medicine, which holds that their blood and meat boosts sexual potency.
The snakes had been smuggled in via the southern Thai border and were believed to be on their way through the kingdom and destined for neighbouring countries, the official added.
There are three cobra species native to Thailand. Although none is endangered, the export of live snakes is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.
Two men have been arrested in connection with Monday night's haul in Prachuap Khiri Khan province and face up to 10 years in jail.
The cobras have been sent to a national park in central Thailand.