There was a sting in the tail of this man's plan to smuggle some unusual cargo out of Sri Lanka's Colombo airport.

A passenger was discovered to have 200 venomous scorpions in his luggage at the airport security screening. Each of the insects were packed into individual plastic containers, with padding for the flight.

The man who was arrested by customs officials on Monday was issued a 100,000 rupee ($830) fine and released. This is more than can be said for the scorpions which were left in the care of airport security.

Talking to The Hindu newspaper customs officials told the newspaper that they had not yet worked out the value of the animals which were bound for the illegal Chinese medicine market.

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"We detained the passenger and launched an investigation," customs spokesperson Sunil Jayaratne said. "We have not placed a value on the 200 scorpions, but trafficking in live wildlife has become a lucrative trade."

Carrying the poisonous insects on his person, the man risked more than a fine and a slap on the wrist; Sri Lanka is home to 18 species of venomous scorpion, one of which is lethal to humans.

It is still not clear what species where in the 200 containers. Drained from the insects, poison is reportedly a valuable ingredient in traditional medicine.

The illegal trade of live animals has become a major issue for Sri Lankan customs officials, which have seen increasingly brazen attempts to smuggle flora and fauna out of the country.

A captive pangolin or 'Sri Lankan Armadillo' in Kandy. Photo / CC, Wikimedia Commons
A captive pangolin or 'Sri Lankan Armadillo' in Kandy. Photo / CC, Wikimedia Commons

In June last year a smuggler tried to fly with 45kg of rare birds nest – a ingredient in soup and an oriental delicacy. Another of Sri Lanka's victims in the illegal wildlife trade is the pangolin - also known as the Sri Lankan Armadillo.

This unusual, scaled creature is prized in traditional medicines which has eradicated it from the wild in certain areas.