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Dulles CBP Intercepts Suitcase Surprise | News

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Dulles CBP Intercepts Suitcase Surprise
News, Weird
Dulles CBP Intercepts Suitcase Surprise

From U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

STERLING, Va. – Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at Washington-Dulles International Airport were in for a bit of a surprise Dec. 3, when a passenger from Ghana opened his suitcase. Staring back at them was a plethora of animal products including a hedgehog, elephant tails, chameleons, genet skins, seed pods, bloody sheets and a lot of soil.

“This is by far one of the strangest suitcases we’re ever opened. The passenger told us that the items were to be used for spiritual purposes. From what we were able to learn, the items seem consistent with that explanation,” said Christopher Hess, CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington (DC). 

“Regardless of its intended purpose, each item posed potentially severe animal and plant disease threats to American agriculture,” Hess said. “Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists were required to destroy them.”

The only items to escape incineration were the two elephant tails. The tails violated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and 50 Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR) regulated by U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife. An inspector from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized them.

During a secondary inspection, the 59-year-old passenger declared to CBP agriculture specialists that he possessed only dried herbs and clothing.  A CBP inspection revealed sheets contaminated with chicken blood, reportedly from a sacrificed chicken, one genet skin, two elephant tails, five chicken feathers, one dried hedgehog, two dried chameleons, grass, pea and seed pods, tree bark chips, soil and a water jug containing soil, herbs and blood.

Plant materials pose a potential threat of foreign plant diseases and harboring insect hitchhikers, while the animal products pose a potential risk of introducing exotic animal diseases into the United States.

The passenger abandoned the suitcase items. CBP agriculture specialists advised him of U.S. regulations, issued him a warning and released him.  The passenger’s final destination was Maryland.

More than 3 million international travelers processed their arrivals at Washington-Dulles International Airport during fiscal year 2010.  CBP agriculture specialists inspected nearly 185,000 of those travelers and intercepted nearly 31,000 prohibited insects and plant and animal products.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection.

On a typical day, agriculture specialists nationally inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes being imported to the United States and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 454 insect pests.

“CBP agriculture specialists conduct an immensely important mission everyday as the front line protectors of our nation’s vital agriculture industry,” said Hess.

To learn more about CBP agriculture specialists, please visit http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/careers/customs_careers/agri_specialist/.

Travelers are encouraged to visit CBP’s Travel website at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/ to learn which items are admissible to, and prohibited from, the United States.

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