Weirdest Animal-Smuggling Incidents
Animal smuggling is big business, and people will try just about anything to sneak creatures through security. Some of them get caught.
If getting a six-ounce perfume bottle through
airport security seems impossible, imagine trying to bypass scanners with 18
monkeys strapped to your waist. In July 2010, one smuggler did just that,
flying from Lima, Peru, to Mexico City, only to get busted after acting nervous
during a random check, according to news reports.
If successful, he could have sold the monkeys for as
much as $1,550 each (and turned a profit of more than $25,000), said the news
reports. That’s because, for some people, it’s no longer enough to pick up an
animal at the local pet shop. Exotic wildlife has become yet another status
symbol—and one reason that illegal animal smuggling is on the rise, with one
case weirder than the next.
Animal smuggling is a hideous and shadowy business.
It’s also widespread—and lucrative: Freeland, an international organization
fighting wildlife trafficking, estimates it at $10–$20 billion annually. In
2009, law enforcement officials recovered more than 18,500 live animals with an
estimated value of $35 million—and that was just in Southeast Asia.
Thailand remains a key hub for traffickers, who use
it as a gateway to China and other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam.
Freeland reported that between 2007 and 2008, undercover agents found brothels
in Vietnam offering tiger and bear products to clients as sexual enhancers.
animal parts are also coveted for traditional medicine. An 86-year-old
Hmong-American woman who considers herself a shaman was convicted for smuggling
more than 1,300 pieces of wildlife, including Asian elephant and clouded
parts, through Minneapolis–St.
Paul International Airport in May 2009.
Of course, airports are often the scenes of the
crime bust since security tends to be stricter than at car or ferry crossings.
But some people still make it through. In one 2007 incident,
a mother and daughter couldn’t resist bringing a pet from Thailand home to
Washington State. So, according to news reports, they sedated a baby rhesus
macaque and hid it under the daughter’s clothes—as if she were pregnant. They
cleared security and were arrested only after bringing their “baby” to a
Spokane-area mall and boasting about it.
Of course, seized animals are the more fortunate
ones. They are typically transferred to zoos or rescue centers such as Monkey
World, an English center that coordinates with governments worldwide and
currently shelters more than 240 rescued and endangered primates.
Read on for more strange animal-smuggling incidents.
And if you’d like to learn more about this crime and how to help combat it,
check out organizations such as Monkey World, Freeland, and