Tag Archives: lacey act

Credit: USFWS

Celebrating Endangered Species Day!

Today Meagan Racey (right) writes about Endangered Species Day at Stone Zoo in Massachusetts. On the left is Catherine Hibbard; both are public affairs specialists in the Northeast Regional office. Credit: USFWS

Today Meagan Racey (right) writes about Endangered Species Day at Stone Zoo in Massachusetts. On the left is Catherine Hibbard; both are public affairs specialists in the Northeast Regional office. Credit: USFWS

How much does this cost?” asked someone, holding up a seized cobra skin belt at our Endangered Species Day booth at Stone Zoo on Saturday.

It’s not for sale – that was illegally imported into the United States and confiscated by one of our wildlife officers,” I said. My co-worker Catherine Hibbard chimed in, “These items come from rare animals and show the uphill battle that we have to protect wildlife. There’s a demand for items like this.”

All afternoon, we chatted with families about confiscated items (in addition to the cobra belt, we had shoes made from sea turtle, a purse made from a dwarf crocodile, two furs and several other pieces) and the connection between human demand and the exploitation of animals to the point of endangerment or even extinction.

The snow leopard and wolf furs weren’t the only attractions pulling people toward our booth. We set up a small piping plover exhibit with sand, symbolic fencing and eggs, since Stoneham, Mass., is near the coast and beaches where threatened piping plovers nest.

A girl uses the biologist binoculars to look for the piping plover eggs in our exhibit. Biologists and volunteers rope off nesting areas for piping plovers because the birds and eggs are very hard to see. They need protection from disturbance, which can cause birds to abandon the nests. Credit: USFWS

A girl uses the biologist binoculars to look for the piping plover eggs in our exhibit. Biologists and volunteers rope off nesting areas for piping plovers because the birds and eggs are very hard to see. They need protection from disturbance, which can cause birds to abandon the nests. It’s important for people to be aware of these areas and help protect families of this threatened bird. Credit: USFWS

Did you know we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act? Check out stories of endangered plant and animal conservation in the Northeast – We’re sharing them throughout the year!

“Do you see the tiny eggs in the sand? We don’t want to bother them so they can hatch,” a mother said to her son. “Now, when you see these signs and rope on the beach, you won’t try to go inside, right?

Armed with a plover temporary tattoo, he marched over to the snow leopard exhibit with his new knowledge and a “Share the Beach” activity book.

Some of the kids dove into our “Be a Biologist” section. They tried on the wildland firefighter helmet and jacket – and even tried to carry the survival pack. One particularly adventurous boy stepped in to the XXL waders we brought along.

Our goal was for visitors to leave our booth and be able to know the name of one imperiled animal and one way that we protect it.

Whether they explored the confiscated wildlife items, colored or drew endangered species, or learned about piping plover fencing, we hope our visitors walked away with a new bit of information about endangered animals and the need to protect them for our future.

Lesser seed finch. Photo from Creative Commons, Flickr, from Alastair Rae.

Finch smuggler sentenced for trafficking for “tweets”

Marlon Errol Hariram was caught coming in to New York from Guyana with the sleeves of his shirt hiding  finches hidden in these toilet paper tubes. Credit: USFWS

Marlon Errol Hariram was caught coming in to New York from Guyana with the sleeves of his shirt hiding finches hidden in these toilet paper tubes. Click here for another photo of the tubes. Credit: USFWS

Where are we today?

If asked to name reasons someone might smuggle birds into the country, chances are you wouldn’t think first of finch singing contests.

For the Guyanese population in New York, N.Y., however, these contests are a cultural tradition, and many competitors believe the best feathered singing virtuosos must be brought in from Guyana.

Finch contests are similar to horse races. As a bird out-competes its opponents, it becomes more valuable. Its owner plays for bragging rights and money, and the stakes can become high. Finches that have proven their worth in competition can fetch in excess of $5,000.

A New York City man was sentenced recently in federal court for smuggling finches into the United States. A year ago, Marlon Errol Hariram was caught when he arrived on a flight from Guyana at John F. Kennedy International Airport with nine finches hidden in toilet paper tubes stuffed into the sleeves of his shirt. A repeat offender, Hariram has been caught three times in the U.S. and once in Guyana with hidden finches.

Under the federal Lacey Act, it is unlawful for any person to import into the U.S. any wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any foreign government. The Lacey Act is the oldest wildlife protection statute in the country and is used as a tool to combat the illegal trafficking of live wild animals and wildlife products.

The Voice, Finch Style
How does a singing competition work?
Two finches are placed in adjacent cages. Male birds in close proximity will naturally start to compete for territory by singing. The contest is not based on the melody of a finch’s song, but instead the speed at which it sings. Bets are placed and the contest begins. The first bird to reach 50 notes wins.

On April 16, 2013, Hariram was sentenced in federal court in the Eastern District of New York to six months in prison followed by two years of supervised release, as well as a $2,000 fine. Hariram pled guilty in October 2012 to three felony charges stemming from his May 2012 finch smuggling attempt. Charges included violation of the Lacey Act, smuggling and making a material false statement.

Read a recent New York Daily News story about his case.

“Frankenfish” smuggler brought to justice

Snakehead fish pose a significant threat to native fish and wildlife resources. Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

Snakehead fish pose a significant threat to native fish and wildlife resources. Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

A Toronto man and a pet store near the Ontario city have been brought to justice for illegally exporting and selling Giant Snakehead fish from Canada into the U.S. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents were instrumental in the success of “Operation Serpent,” the multi-agency international undercover operation leading to the convictions.

Snakehead fish, sometimes called “frankenfish” or “fishzilla” because of their gaping tooth-filled mouths, have the unique ability to slither across land and live out of water for up to three days. Introduced from southeast Asia, these predatory fish feed voraciously and can deplete populations of native fish, frogs and aquatic insects. If released into the wild, snakeheads have the potential to disrupt recreational and commercial fisheries, including those in the Great Lakes.

"Frankenfish" smuggler brought to justice

INVASIVE SPECIES
Invasive species can cause economic and environmental harm and pose a risk to human health. More

Muk Leung Ip was sentenced to 60 days in jail, and both he and Lucky Aquarium received substantial fines for their illegal actions. In July 2011, Ip sent a shipment containing snakeheads from Ontario across the border to a Service special agent working undercover in upstate New York. Later that year, Ip sold 154 snakeheads to the same agent, knowing that the fish would be smuggled into the U.S. In addition to this conviction for violating the Lacey Act, Ip received six additional convictions under Canadian law and another under New York state law.