MIAMI -- Customs inspectors found 80 pounds of cocaine stuffed inside the bulging bodies of 312 boa constrictors that were shipped live to Miami from Bogota, Colombia, agents said Friday.
When the 4- and 5-foot snakes arrived at Miami International Airport Tuesday, Customs inspectors noticed 'an unnatural bulge' in the lower body of one of the reptiles and X-rayed it.
The X-ray showed a foreign object that turned out to be two condom- wrapped pellets, each containing about 4 ounces of cocaine.
The inspectors removed the pellets, 'apparently without harming the snake,' said Customs spokesman Clif Stallings.
A surveillance team followed as a man load the boxes of snakes into a delivery van and drove to an apartment complex northwest of Miami. The man went into the building, leaving the snake-filled van in the parking lot.
The agents watched and waited until Wednesday afternoon, when they finally opened the van and found 202 of the snakes had died, apparently of heatstroke as afternoon temperatures climbed into the 90s.
The surviving snakes were taken to Miami MetroZoo, where veterinarians tried to save them.
'Unfortunately, the boas had suffered too much internal damage from the forced injection of the cocaine, and had to be euthanized,' Stallings said.
The cocaine pellets had been forced into the snakes' rectums, which were then sewn shut, the investigators said.
Federal agents were still trying to find the snakes' importer, who could be charged with violating international wildlife laws in addition to cocaine smuggling.