Libraries allow your imagination to run wild, but a discovery Friday morning at the Waikiki-Kapahulu library was definitely an eye-opener. A custodian came across four bottles that contained a clear liquid, and get this, reptiles!
Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's report.
Three of the bottles contained cobras while the fourth held a gecko and seahorse. It was easy to tell from the red labeling that the product is known as snake wine and came from Vietnam. The unusual cocktail is supposed to help with all sorts of ailments, from rheumatism to hair loss.
A security guard at the library called authorities after the custodian told her what she had found.
"As soon as she told me, I figured out there's something wrong because I know a snake is illegal in Hawaii no matter what," said Pouran Malekkazeronian.
Two inspectors with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture's Plant Quarantine branch arrived at the library, put the bottles in a box and took them away. However the inspectors said snake wine is not illegal under HDOA rules, since the cobras are dead.
"People just bring them in, they smuggle them in," said Plant Quarantine inspector Kent Dumlaw. "There must be some regulation (or) foreign arrival or something."
KITV4 placed calls to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Food and Drug Administration, whether it's illegal to import rice wine into Hawaii and the rest of the United States. As of this posting none of the agencies had replied.
However according to a May 2009 article by CNN, it is in fact illegal to import snake wine into the country because cobras are covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
"It applies to live and dead animals," Jose Castellano, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in the CNN article.