How many snakes slid past New Zealand's border in 2023?

New Zealand has a total ban on the importation of snakes, but that hasn't stopped a handful of the slithery reptiles from sneaking past our border. 

According to Biosecurity NZ, five snakes were detected in 2023, most of which were not venomous and found hiding with imported goods. 

The types of snakes found that have been identified were from Australia, North America, Asia, Italy and Papua New Guinea. They were found in Coromandel, Hamilton, Auckland and Porirua.

All but one of the snakes was dead when discovered.   

In August 2023, workers at a mine in the Coromandel secured a non-venomous live snake that had hitchhiked to New Zealand in a shipping container with imported construction materials from Australia. A trained Biosecurity NZ snake handler collected it, and it was euthanised at Auckland Zoo. 

Two snakeskin fragments were also intercepted in Rangiora and New Plymouth. Skin fragments can include a piece of sloughed skin left behind after moulting, meaning the snake may have deposited the skin fragments prior to departing an overseas port. 

Biosecurity NZ's acting manager of surveillance and incursion Mike Taylor said all reported snake sightings or interceptions are thoroughly investigated to determine the pathway of arrival, mitigate any potential biosecurity risk and identify if any changes are needed to biosecurity requirements or import pathways requirements. 

"Biosecurity New Zealand takes the threat of a snake population establishing in New Zealand seriously. This is why we have a multi-layered biosecurity system that involves strict import requirements, checks at the border and surveillance. It is also why we have trained personnel to handle suspected snake detections safely and effectively," Taylor said. 

"Alerts from the public are an important part of the biosecurity system. They allow us to act quickly to eliminate biosecurity threats." 

During 2020, 2021 and 2022 a total of nine snakes were caught in New Zealand, two of which were alive.