You never know what you’re going to find in a Waikiki dumpster. Sometime last week, somebody tucked four bottles of wine containing dead cobras, geckos and seahorses into one at the Waikiki-Kapahulu Public Library, where a custodian found them under stacks of old bus routes.
“As soon as [the custodian] told me, I figured out there’s something wrong, because I know a snake is illegal in Hawaii, no matter what,” said Pouran Malekkazeronian, a library security guard, to Honolulu’s KITV news.
The bottles of dead reptiles were labeled as snake wine, a “real specialty of Vietnam." It looked like some had been opened and sampled before they were thrown out.
People drink it to combat hair loss or boost virility. The instructions on the found bottles said to “take twice a day, each a small cup before meal” for rheumatism, lumbago, and “sweat of limbs.”
It’s a centuries-old tradition to drink this concoction, usually rice wine, in China and southeast Asia. In Vietnam it’s known as Ruou thuoc, or medicine wine. Hundreds of varieties are available, many of which use dead, sometimes endangered, animals.
As for Hawaii, possessing a living snake is a class C felony there. Although these snakes were dead, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection further prohibits trading any species present on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s list, which includes cobras.
Nobody knows why the Waikiki snake wine bottles were ever tossed in the first place, but our hunch is that has to do with a disgusting hangover.