Greedy people keep finding new and contemptible ways to transport illegally obtained wildlife from one country to another. The motivation, of course, is money. The victims are innocent animals — often very young ones.
“The U.S. seizes over $10 million worth of illegal wildlife each year, but this only scratches the surface [of the problem],” Edward Grace, deputy chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, told National Geographic. “[On] any given day, someone, somewhere in the world, is poaching or smuggling wildlife.”
1. Tiger Cub Stuffed Into a Suitcase
Sneaking animals illegally through airports in luggage is much more common than you might realize. In 2010, authorities at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, caught a woman with a three-month-old tiger cub hidden in her checked bag. The cub was drugged, sleeping woozily nestled next to stuffed animal toys he was supposed to resemble. A clever ploy, but not clever enough. The x-ray machine revealed a beating heart that led airport staff to find and rescue the cub.
2. Rare Bird Eggs Hidden in Trousers
On May 21, 2014, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service discovered that a Czech man had hidden 16 small, rare bird eggs in a black and white mesh bag in the groin area of his pants. The eggs apparently were discovered during a routine frisk at the Sydney Airport. The alleged smuggler had been on his way to Dubai. He was arrested and will be charged with attempting to import regulated live specimens without a permit. The type of eggs have not yet been identified.
3. Pygmy Lorises Hidden in a Man‘s Pants
Yes, you read that one right. There were little monkeys hiding in this guy’s pants. In this case, the rare animals at issue were two pygmy lorises. U.S. Customs officials at Los Angeles International Airport caught the man in 2002 after they opened his suitcase and a rare bird of paradise flew out. It turned out he had four of those birds in his luggage, plus 50 protected orchids he was trying to illegally import from Thailand.
When authorities asked the man if he had anything else they should know about, the Los Angeles Times reported that he responded: “Yes, I’ve got monkeys in my pants.” Not surprisingly, officials noted it was the first time they’d seen anyone try that particular maneuver.
Unfortunately, it happened again in 2012, when a man was caught during a pat down with a loris in his underwear.
4. Snakes on a Plane — 40 of Them
Two Kuwati men attempted to fly from Jakarta to Dubai with 40 reticulated pythons in their carry-on bags in 2011. Officials discovered them when scanning the bags, so the sedated snakes never actually made it onto the flight. The men were apparently trying to get the pythons to the United Arab Emirates to sell them to collectors.
In another 2011 case, a man was arrested trying to smuggle seven snakes and three tortoises onto a flight in his pants. Yes, snakes in his pants. The pants thing seems to be a trend.
5. Smuggled Crocodile Gets Loose on Flight
One smuggled animal that did make it onto a plane may have ended up causing a tragedy. A small plane crashed in the Congo in August 2010, killing 20 people. The only survivor of the crash told officials a crocodile someone had smuggled into the passenger cabin in a duffle bag got loose. He said it caused a panic among those on board. In the ensuing “stampede” of frightened people, the plane reportedly plummeted to the ground and crashed. However, aviation officials believe this scenario is “extremely unlikely“ to have occurred.
6. Baby Panthers, Leopards, Monkeys and a Bear Packed in Luggage
Airport officials in Bangkok caught a first class passenger en route to Dubai carrying baby leopards, panthers, monkeys and a bear in his checked baggage. Undercover anti-trafficking authorities had been following this man ever since he’d obtained the animals in black market transactions.
“It was a very sophisticated smuggling operation. We’ve never seen one like this before,” Steven Galster of the FREELAND Foundation told the Huffington Post. ”The guy had a virtual zoo in his suitcases.”
Sadly, trafficking in rare animals is a huge and profitable industry, second only to narcotics. It rakes in an estimated $10 billion annually. Some of the animals are intended as exotic pets, while many more are doomed to be slaughtered for their pelts, paws and other body parts.
Rare animals, already threatened because of environmental factors, have an even poorer chance of surviving so long as poachers continue to decimate their numbers by stealing them away for profit.
Photo credit (main image): Thinkstock