- No, you can’t bring African animal skins, heads, or giant African land snail shells to the U.S. and call them ‘drums and clothes’
Customs and Border Protection agents seized a shipment with the unusual animal products at Dulles International Airport.
The shipment was labeled “African drums and clothes.” However, a close inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Dulles International Airport turned up something quite different.”
Instead of clothes and drums, CBP inspectors found — and seized — three African animal skins, two African antelope heads and 22 pounds of giant African land snail shells, officials said Thursday.
The shipment, from Sierra Leone and on its way to Philadelphia, was intercepted at Dulles in late August.
Federal officials said inspectors identified the skins were from bushbucks, a species of antelope in sub-Saharan Africa, and from genets and civets, small catlike mammals. The head skins were mounted on unprocessed wood carvings.
U.S. officials said the skins and snail shells violated numerous import requirements and the CBP ordered the shipment destroyed as it posed a “potentially serious animal disease threat to American livestock.”
“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists protect our nation’s agriculture and economy from a variety of potential threats every day, from the innocuous hotel fruit and airport sandwiches, to the more serious unfinished animal pelts that may be a vector for economy-crippling animal diseases,” Casey Durst, director of field operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office, said in a statement.
Authorities said they seized some African cat skins being shipped from Sierra Leone. (Authorities said they seized some African cat skins being shipped from Sierra Leone. U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
This, of course, isn’t the first time someone has tried to bring unusual items through Dulles. Once a traveler tried to sneak in cocaine inside caramelized sugar and two women tried to bring in horsemeat and genitals hidden in juice boxes.
Travelers are allowed to bring animals and animal products from other countries, but must follow strict federal guidelines and certain things are not allowed. Hunters on safari often import pelts, for example. Anyone who wants to import such products should abide by licensing, certification, and importation requirements set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Giant African Land Snail shells seized at Dulles International Airport. (Handout, Customs and Border Protection)
In this case, it is unclear if those responsible for the shipment knew about import regulations. Generally, in similar cases of pelt imports, the CBP seized the product without pressing criminal charges against the owners.
“CBP encourages consumers to fully research any product they wish to purchase overseas through the Internet to ensure that the product complies with all applicable U.S. health and safety laws and import regulations,” CBP spokesman Steve Sapp said.