- From noisy fish to pants full of snakes, this is one strange zoo we have here.
When thinking about smuggling, your mind might first jump to drugs, guns, or other such illegal goods. But a huge sector of the smuggling industry focuses on a surprising cargo — animals.
Animal smuggling really isn’t that surprising, though. There will always be people who are ready to pay a lot of money for exotic pets, with no qualms about purchasing endangered or protected species.
But animals are a lot harder to smuggle than drugs because they’re living creatures. They need at least air to survive, so the crooks have to get imaginative when trying to hide their haul and still keep it alive.
Sometimes, that doesn’t work out so well. Here are five strange stories about animal smugglers who failed spectacularly.
1) A Man and His 5,000 Leeches
In October 2018, a man caught the attention of the authorities at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada. A moment later, a sniffer dog confirmed that the man was up to no good.
But when the security personnel peeked into a fabric grocery bag the man was carrying, they got a disgusting surprise. In the man’s carry-on were a total of 4,788 protected leeches, wrapped in additional moistened cloth bags.
Somehow, the man had managed to pass through terminal security without anybody noticing the leeches. From this, we can conclude that either leeches don’t show up on X-rays or the machine operator wasn’t paying attention to his job.
Later tests confirmed that the leeches had all been caught in the wild. We feel like it must be easier to get a legit job than trying to catch and smuggle nearly 5,000 slimy bloodsuckers.
2) Snail Trail Busts a Snail Smuggler
The customs officials at the Duesseldorf Airport in Germany had what will likely be the most bizarre experience of their careers in September 2022. When checking through the baggage of an arrived flight, they found a giant, 8-inch snail.
At first, the officials thought it was a toy, but then they noticed that it was moving. They followed the slime trail the snail had left and discovered a small bag — with another snail peeking out of it.
When they started going through the bags, they found quite a haul. All in all, the officials discovered 93 giant snails and 62 pounds of fish and smoked meat, alongside one suitcase full of reeking, rotting meat.
The entire cargo had arrived from Nigeria and was headed to an African store in western Germany. The officials didn’t say whether anyone got arrested because of the incident.
“Never in the history of the Duesseldorf customs office has a trail of slime led us to smuggled goods,” Customs spokesman Michael Walk told AP News.
3) Pants Full of Reptiles
Sometimes, you’re just too tired to come up with some creative smuggling trick. That’s when you resort to the age-old technique of stuffing your illicit goods in your pants.
At least that’s what Jose Manuel Perez tried in February 2022. U.S. border officials stopped him when he was driving into the country from Mexico — and found 60 lizards and snakes in his pants.
Some of the reptiles Perez had stuffed into his crotch, while others were hidden in pouches sewn into his clothes. Three of the animals had unfortunately perished while hidden in his trousers.
This may have been Perez’s last smuggling attempt, but it sure wasn’t his first. Just this month, he plead guilty to smuggling more than 1,700 animals into the U.S. from Mexico and Hong Kong.
We couldn’t find out how many of those poor creatures were subjected to his crotch sweat.
4) The Tiger in a Bag
You don’t always need to smuggle dozens upon dozens of animals at once to make the headlines. All you need is one unusual critter.
In May 2018, U.S. border patrol agents noticed three people attempting to illegally cross the border from the Mexican side near Brownsville, Texas. When the men realized they’d been spotted, they dropped what they were carrying and fled back across the border.
In their wake, they left a black duffel bag. But when the border agents opened the bag, we imagine there were a couple of double takes.
Inside was a 4-month-old male tiger cub. The big cat was unconscious but still barely alive.
The border agents rushed the animal to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. Fortunately, they weren’t too late and the tiger made a full recovery.
5) The Woman in the ‘Flipping’ Skirt
As difficult as all animals are to smuggle, fish have to be the most challenging. After all, they need water. How are you supposed to stuff an aquarium into your suitcase?
A woman arriving in Melbourne, Australia, from Singapore proved that you don’t need an aquarium. In June 2005, Australian customs agents stopped her for a routine check but they quickly noticed something weird.
“During the search, customs officers became suspicious after hearing ‘flipping’ noises coming from the vicinity of her waist,” the Australian Customs Service said.
An examination revealed the woman was wearing a custom apron under her skirt. Attached to the apron were 15 plastic bags filled with live fish.
You wouldn’t think fish out of all creatures would make enough noise to blow your cover. Yet here we are.