A Central American crate of plants came with an exotic surprise as biodiversity officials discovered a live boa constrictor hiding inside.

The boa, measuring around 80cm, was discovered by workers at the Ports of Auckland this afternoon in a shipping container filled with plants from Guatemala.

Two Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry workers were called, and the snake was easily caught.

MAF spokesman Stuart Rawnsley said the snake was not dangerous, but if left to grow to a full size of 4 metres it could pose a risk.

Snakes were not permitted to be kept in captivity in New Zealand. Because the boa is not a rare species, it would be put down tonight.

8.20pm poll results:

It should be put down, as planned: 51.04%

It should be returned to Guatemala: 48.97%