Huge haul of endangered species smuggled into UK

Operation Cobra 3

A huge variety of animals and other illegal items have been seized at airports during Operation Cobra 3, a six-week global operation to prevent the illegal movement of endangered species.

British authorities have confiscated items including a chameleon in a handbag, a polar bear skin in luggage, 11 black bear claws, 23 orchid and cacti, 157 health supplements derived from endangered species and 57 ivory products.

Live animals seized included 166 turquoise blue geckos, 10,000 sea horses, 400 Horsefield tortoises, as well as scorpions and other insects in postal packages that were described as appearing "fairly regularly".


Snakes in the Post - Endangered Species Seized in Trade Crackdown

The UK is an important transit hub for smugglers of products that come from endangered animals.

Border Force's Grant Miller told BT.com: "I see ivory being shipped out of Africa, it transits through logistical hubs in the UK and going on to China.

"Rhino horn being trafficked to Vietnam, iguanas being trafficked to Europe but through the UK airports and Heathrow in particular."

Operation Cobra 3

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Mr Miller said: "We must do something to control this barbaric trade.

"It's not just iconic species like rhinos and elephants but the frogs, reptiles, tortoises, plants, timbers, the great forests.

"We have natural resources across the world that we need to preserve."

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Weird stuff seized by customs
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Huge haul of endangered species smuggled into UK

It's one thing trying to smuggle dead dried insects into the country, but another passenger who was addicted to eating the creepy crawlies tried to board a plane at Switzerland's EuroAirport with live caterpillars. And when customs officers tried to confiscate them, he stuffed as many as he could in his mouth - while some were still wriggling!

In Taiwan, a traveller thought he'd come up with an innovative method of smuggling gold into Korea - by shaping it into clothes hangers. Unfortunately for the gold smuggler the idea wasn't smart enough as customs officers arrested him at Incheon International Airport with £52,000 worth of the metal. That's a lot of hangers...

In Bangladesh, customs officials seized 415 turtles from two men in Shahjalal International Airport. The mini reptile haul included 300 rare starred tortoises, 90 three-keeled turtles and 25 Indian roofed turtles. The animals were carried in three suitcases and worth an estimated three million taka (£24,760) on the black market.

Swiss border guards arrested six French citizens at Geneva railway station who were carrying more than 42 tasers disguised as mobile phones and flashlights, hoods, masks and laser devices. The strange assortment of items also included a cigarette lighter that hid a knife inside, an expandable spring baton, handcuffs and several balaclavas. Weird!

One man hid a collection of 36 live snails in his luggage. UK Border Force officers at Glasgow Airport discovered the 15cm-long snails which had shells the size of human fists. The Nigerian passenger said the molluscs were going to be used as food.

Some people are prepared to go to extreme lengths to commit a crime. A Chilean man travelling to Barcelona was found wearing a cast made from cocaine on his broken leg. Before he could claim the doctor had got the plaster mix wrong, airport security officers found bags of cocaine in his luggage too. It turned out he did have a broken leg but officials were almost certain he'd broken it on purpose to smuggle the drugs.

Customs officers at Melbourne International Airport discovered 51 live tropical fish concealed beneath the skirt of a female passenger. They selected a 43-year-old woman for a baggage examination after she arrived on a flight from Singapore and became suspicious during the search when they heard 'flipping' noises coming from her waist. An examination revealed 15 plastic water-filled bags holding fish in a purpose-built apron.

A Cypriot monk and two accomplices were caught trying to board a plane in Athens with the skull and bones of a nun in their luggage. When questioned about the remains in his luggage, the 42-year-old monk said he was transferring them from Greece to a monastery in Cyprus because the nun was a saint. But the Cypriot Orthodox church did not believe the story and said the attempted smuggling was sacrilegious.

And just when you thought this gallery couldn't get any weirder, a man was arrested in Miami when he tried to board a flight to Brazil with exotic snakes and tortoises stuffed in his trousers. The passenger put seven snakes and three tortoises inside women's tights but was stopped as he passed through a body scanner at security. It's not the first time custom officials have seized live snakes either... One man tried to board a flight in Argentina with 200 reptiles moving in his suitcase and two men in Kuwait were arrested for trying to smuggle 40 pythons in their luggage.

A New York City man's attempt to smuggle a date rape drug into the US was sniffed out by customs dogs. The 50-year-old put the liquid in bottles and said it was "holy water" but lab tests confirmed the dozens of bottles contained Ketamine, a hallucinogenic used as a date rape drug.

A Dutch man was caught trying to smuggle more than a dozen tiny hummingbirds inside his pants! The birds were hidden in special pouches sewn inside his pants and were individually wrapped in cloth and taped up to stop them from escaping. Airport officials caught the man when they noticed him fidgeting and acting suspicious.

An African prince tried to smuggle cocaine concealed inside onions into the UK. The 55-year-old prince thought the onion odour would hide the drugs worth £163,000. Shrimps and other smelly fish were packed in his luggage but sniffer dogs at Heathrow still managed to smell through the pungent odours.

Yuk! A smuggler was caught trying to hide a live Loris monkey in his underwear at India's Indira Gandhi International Airport. The little monkey measured seven inches in length and weighed 150g. Customs officers found it in his underwear while frisking him. Loris monkeys are an endangered species indigenous to South East Asia and India, and are believed to possess aphrodisiac qualities.

A woman and her daughter were arrested at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport in 2010 when they tried to check in the woman's dead husband on a flight to Berlin. They said the 91-year-old deceased man in the wheelchair was asleep but security was alerted when a member of staff became suspicious.

A woman in Barcelona was caught allegedly smuggling cocaine inside her breasts. Border police noticed the suspicious activity when the Panamanian woman arrived on a flight from Colombia with scars and blood-stained gauze wrapped around her chest. She was taken to a hospital and doctors found cocaine packed inside the implants.

A 48-year-old man tried to smuggle 14 rare Peregrine falcon eggs out of Birmingham Airport. Jeffrey Paul Lendrum wrapped the eggs in socks and attached them to his body to keep warm so that he could hatch them later. The eggs were worth £70,000 and were to be sold by the businessman in Dubai, where breeders will pay thousands of pounds for eggs snatched from the wild.

When customs officers at Kiev airport asked a Ukrainian woman to open her suitcase in 2007, they found a vibrator with a bag of hashish stuffed in the battery compartment. A border police spokesman said: "She told us that she had put the drugs in a vibrator because she thought no one would ever think of touching it, let alone looking inside it. She was obviously unaware of how thorough our officers are in their searches."

A spider is the last thing we'd want in our suitcase but one couple from Germany tried to smuggle over 200 live tarantulas through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Customs officials who confiscated the collection said the pair had other insects including "bugs, crickets, grasshoppers and millipedes". The pair had been on a trip to Peru and put the animals in plastic containers and tubes before hiding them in their clothes and shoes.

A 21-year-old woman declared a few soiled nappies at a US-Mexico border crossing but the suspiciously chunky diapers were seized when they were found to contain several links of spicy pork sausage. Customs officials said the nappies were folded to look soiled. Strange!

A man in Bangkok was caught carrying suitcases full of baby leopards, panthers, monkeys and a bear. The traveller thought he could smuggle the 'zoo' of animals through Suvarnabhumi International Airport for a flight to Dubai but undercover police had been watching him ever since he made the black market purchase of animals.

A Mr Potato head toy containing 293grams of ecstasy  from Ireland was seized by Australian Customs back in 2007.
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12 PHOTOS
Weird things you can take on a plane
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Huge haul of endangered species smuggled into UK
Fancy spending the duration of your flight knitting? They might look like the type of thing airport security would confiscate but knitting needles are permitted on board. You'll want to leave the your cutting tools at home though, unless your scissors are blunt with blades no longer than 6cm.
Carrying your beautiful wedding cake on a flight isn't the best way to preserve it for your big day but you are allowed to travel with it as your carry-on - as long as it fits in the overhead locker! Heathrow Airport says: "You can take most solid foods, including wedding cake, in your hand baggage if you wish. Foods in sauces or dishes containing a lot of liquid will have to be in containers of 100ml or less, and placed inside a single transparent, resealable plastic bag of a capacity no greater than 1 litre."
This might be surpring for non-hunters but in America, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows travellers to carry antlers through aiport security and almost all US airlines allow them on board. Most will charge a small fee and ask that the anterles are cleaned and for the skull to be wrapped.
Whether you're a smoker or planning on lighting a few candles on your romantic break, you can carry one lighter on board. The UK government website says: "You should put it inside a resealable plastic bag (like the ones used for liquids), which you must keep on you throughout the flight." You can’t put it in your hold luggage or put it in your hand luggage after screening.
Travelling with Etihad Airways? Then your falcon can perch on your lap, too. While the Middle Eastern airline is happy to accommodate flyers who have one pet falcon, you will have to buy a first class ticket if you have two of the birds. Etihad says: "We accept the carriage of falcons in the main aircraft cabin provided that all the necessary documents have been obtained. We also accept falcons as checked baggage."
While some airports will allow Christmas crackers though security as long as they are in their original packaging but you will want to check with your airline if you can carry them on board, too. easyJet allows up to two boxes providing they are seals but warns passengers to check which novelty items they contain as "some crackers contain novelty items – such as sharp objects – that are not permitted onboard as cabin baggage".
Ashes carried in urns can go in your cabin baggage providing the urn is made of wood, cardboard or plastic, as it may not be possible for metal urns to be x-ray screened.
Some airlines will allow you to carry your bowling equipment in lieu of a piece of carry-on baggage. Virgin Atlantic says: "You’re welcome to bring your lucky bowling ball and shoes with you next time you fly Virgin Atlantic. As long as your bowling case doesn’t exceed 23kg, we’ll fly it at no extra charge – in addition to your free baggage allowance." US Airways allows its passengers to carry up to three bowling balls, one bowling bag and bowling shoes.
Spending Christmas abroad? Some airlines will make special accommodations for travellers taking their tree. Your fellow passengers might not be impressed with you dragging an evergreen through the airport. Flybe says: "There are no restrictions placed on passengers by Flybe as an airline with regards to the carriage of plants or trees. If you wish to carry a small plant, this can be carried in the cabin; alternatively this can be placed in the hold and must be properly packed."
If you're a nervous flyer, you might find comfort in carrying your own parachute on your next flight. Passengers travelling with Ryanair are told: "Parachutes of any type, recreational or sports type or paragliding wings (also known as 'canopy') can be accepted for carriage as checked-in or carry-on baggage subject to the standard restrictions for size and weight. These packs may contain an auxiliary or emergency 'chute' and a barometric mechanical activating (auto-release) device. These accessories are acceptable for check-in."
Miniature horses, along with pot-bellied pigs and monkeys, are allowed on flights if they offer passengers "emotional support". A manual from America's Department of Transportation describes them as "commonly used service animals", but that US airlines "are not required to carry certain unusual service animals in the aircraft cabin such as ferrets, rodents, spiders, snakes and other reptiles".
Don't panic if you spot mysterious vapours appearing from a fellow passenger's hand luggage. Some airlines will allow you to carry dry ice to preserve food or medicine. easyJet says: "You can carry a maximum of 2.5kgs of dry ice in your cabin bag as long as it is only used to preserve perishable items that are not classed as dangerous goods."
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