10 Other Illegal Animals on a Plane
By Amanda Green
Animal smugglers have some serious baggage.
1. A pet turtle
It's tough leaving your pets behind when you go on a trip. On July 29, a man in Guangzhou, China tried to sneak his beloved turtle on a flight to Beijing by hiding the reptile between two hamburger buns and stowing it in a fast food container. When X-ray screening revealed that the meal had tiny legs, the man played it cool and told security, "There's no turtle in there, just a hamburger."
2. Endangered tortoises
In March, animal traffickers in Thailand nearly pulled off something even more shell-shocking—the smuggling of more than 10 percent of an entire endangered species of tortoise. A man was arrested when he tried to pick up a suitcase containing 54 of the approximately 400 ploughshare tortoises left in Madagascar. The luggage also include 21 endangered radiated tortoises.
3. Dried caterpillars
Snacks on a plane! A British man was forced to hand over 206 pounds of dried caterpillars that he brought back from Africa as a tasty souvenir. His intention wasn't suspect—the same emperor moth larvae are already sold and consumed in the U.K. The Border Force was simply following import restrictions. So much for caterpillars and chips...
Security at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport discovered 11 baby otters in an abandoned bag in January. The marine mammals were likely destined for the illegal pet trade. Rescued baby otters can't be returned to the wild, so they'll spend the rest of their days in zoos.
5. A charm of hummingbirds
Is that a dozen hummingbirds in your pants, or are you just happy to see me? Customs officials at Rochambeau Airport in French Guiana detained a fidgety Dutch tourist in September 2011. When he was searched, they found not one, not two, but a dozen live hummingbirds swaddled in individual pouches sewn into his pants. A group of hummingbirds is called a charm, but being smuggled out of the country in some tourist's crotch? Not so charming.
6. A crocodile
Ideally, animal smugglers get caught before they get on a plane. But in October 2010, a domestic flight in the Democratic Republic of Congo turned to chaos when a crocodile escaped the duffel bag it was stowed in. Passengers and crew panicked and ran through the cabin. The plane eventually crashed, killing everyone except for a single passenger and the crocodile. Survival of the fittest? Not so much. The crocodile was later killed.
7. A tiger cub
A woman in Thailand failed to earn her stripes when she tried to smuggle a three-month-old tiger cub from Bangkok to Iran. Her strategy: Putting the drugged cub in a suitcase full of stuffed animals. X-ray screening revealed that one of the cuddly cats had a full skeleton. It was also snoring. Oops.
8. Tropical fish
In June 2005, one traveler made a splash when she flew from Singapore to Melbourne, Australia with a veritable aquarium under her skirt. (Some of us can barely manage a carry-on and one personal item!) Customs officials first suspected something fishy when they heard mysterious sloshing noises. A security pat-down revealed an apron with 15 plastic bags containing 51 tropical catfish. The fish were valued at $30,000, while the woman faced a fine of $83,617. Watching the Little Mermaid get busted: priceless.
9. A chameleon
Sometimes the best place to hide your contraband creature is out in the open. In July 2002, a 17-year-old girl managed to fly from Dubai to Manchester, England with her pet chameleon on her headscarf. The color-changing lizard didn't blend in entirely. Airline employees and passengers just assumed it was a plastic hair clip ... until it flicked out its tongue.
10. Birds and rare orchids and slow lorises, oh my!
In 2002, a California man was flying under the radar on his return trip from Thailand ... until a bird of paradise flew out of his suitcase. Customs found three more birds and 50 rare orchids in the luggage. The man then confessed that he had a pair of endangered slow lorises in his underwear. (Uh, that's what she said?) The man claimed he was an environmentalist trying to transport the animals to a wildlife sanctuary. The four birds ultimately died, and the slow lorises were sent to the Los Angeles Zoo.