A Japanese man has been arrested in Indonesia for allegedly trying to smuggle hundreds of reptiles, including protected species, to Japan, officials and an environmental activist said Thursday.

The man, identified as Katsuhide Naito, 51, was arrested Tuesday while transiting Jakarta's Sukarno-Hatta International Airport after being found to be traveling with four suitcases and a box containing a total of 253 reptiles, according to Ruchyana, deputy director of state-owned airport services company PT Angkasa Pura II.

Four of them were dead.

(Wildlife Conservation Society)

The smuggled animals included three protected species -- the green tree python, the earless monitor lizard and the pig-nosed turtle -- are all listed in either Appendix 1 and 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Naito was headed to Tokyo's Haneda airport from Medan, the largest city on Sumatra island, by Garuda Indonesia flights.

"The suspect will be questioned under the 1992 Law on the Quarantine of Animals, Fish and Plants and he may face up to three years in jail if found guilty," said Ridwan Alaydrus, head of the monitoring unit of the Jakarta airport's Agricultural Quarantine Agency.

Dwi Adhiasto, of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, lauded Indonesian authorities' efforts to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade in the country.

"We hope that the suspect will not only be charged under the 1992 Law, but also by the 1990 Law on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation, in which he may face up to five years in jail and fine of up to 100 million rupiah (about$7,500)," Dwi said, who heads the society's Wildlife Crimes Unit.

He said Naito was "a big fish" in reptile trading and smuggling circles, having been arrested in Australia in 2005 for smuggling 39 exotic reptiles from Singapore to Australia via Thailand.

Naito pleaded guilty in a Brisbane court and received a three-and-a-half-year sentence, Australian media reported.

Reptile smuggling, Indonesia 1 - credit: Wildlife Conservation Society(Wildlife Conservation Society)