Vietnamese police said they arrested a driver in Hanoi who had 53 king cobras in his car.
The man claimed he was paid to transport the snakes, said Officer Dang Van Hanh on Monday. Local media in Vietnam reported the man was paid less than $50.
The snakes, which he kept in green sacks, were seized by authorities on Friday.
The world’s longest venomous snake, the king cobra can grow up to 18 feet in length. It is a solitary reptile that is active by day. Able to raise up one-third of their body off the ground during a confrontation, they can attack while looking an adult human in the eyes.
King cobra meat is a considered a delicacy in parts of Vietnam, where hunting and trading the snakes is banned.
Hanh said the snakes were treated at a wildlife rescue center near the capital before they were released into the wild.
King cobras can deliver enough venom in a single bite to kill 20 people or even an elephant, according to National Geographic.
They cause fewer than 5 deaths per year, while North American rattlesnakes usually kill 5 per year.
A man in England who planned to open a king cobra sanctuary to the public was killed in 2011 by one of his 24 cobras. Luke Yeomans, 45, kept the snakes in his home in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.
"These king cobras know I provide them with food and fresh water so they’re not going to go out of their way to do harm to me when I do no harm to them whatsoever," he said in an interview with the BBC before his death.
Yeomans was reportedly found dying in his garden sanctuary by his daughter Nicole. He did not reach his anti-venom stock in time.