By Evie Carrick
April 04, 2019

Customs officials are used to seeing all sorts of strange items during international mail inspections, but hundreds of live tarantulas might be a first.

When Philippines customs opened a package shipped from Poland, they found 757 live tarantulas hidden inside gift-wrapped boxes of cookies and oatmeal. Baby spiders were enclosed in plastic vials punctured with holes for air while the larger tarantulas were shipped in clear plastic containers.

Live tarantulas sit in a plastic container for inventory after being turned over from the Bureau of Customs to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon, Philippines, 03 April 2019. Environment agency officials said that some 757 tarantulas, most of which were spiderlings kept in plastic vials and concealed in boxes sent from Poland, were intercepted by the Bureau of Customs at Manila's international airport on 01 April.
| Credit: ROLEX DELA PENA/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

The Philippine Bureau of Customs confiscated the illegal contraband at a mail exchange center near Manila airport and valued the shipment at 310,000 Pesos (about $5,900). When a Filipino man came to claim the shipment – which were declared as “collection items” – officials arrested him.

This incident is the latest in a string of illegal wildlife trading activity that takes place into and out of the Philippines. Although the country’s law prohibits the trading and possession of tarantulas without permits, the popular pets are still illegally transported. The Associated Press reports that hundreds of custom inspectors in Manila have intercepted wildlife, including smuggled iguanas, chameleons, and bearded dragons.

According to the Bureau of Customs, since 2018 they have turned over “2,152 wildlife and endangered species including the 250 geckos, 254 corals and other endangered reptiles which were apprehend thru air parcels, baggage and shipments.” Their press release states that illegal wildlife traders may face up to two years in prison and pay up to 200,000 Pesos (about $3,850) in fines.