U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have seized nine jars of bloodsuckers. No, we're not talking about vampires. We're talking about slimy creatures, specifically, leeches found across six air cargo shipments in the month of February from Bulgaria destined for addresses in Connecticut, Florida, and Illinois. The nine jars contained a total of about 900 leeches and were labeled as Hirudo orientalis but were identified by U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspectors as Hirudo medicinalis, an endangered species of leeches used for medicinal bloodletting purposes. The shipments were in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
"Customs and Border Protection officers and agriculture specialists often encounter unique and interesting things, like this jar full of icky bloodsuckers, while inspecting goods being imported to the United States," CBP's Area Port Director in Philadelphia Joseph Martella said. "CBP officers remain committed to collaborating with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to intercept shipments that violate our nation's laws and potentially threaten harm to our nation's citizens and our economy."
It's important to note that it's not the use of the leeches that is the reason for the seizure, but their protected status.
"Most species of leeches are not in danger of extinction," BioKIDS, a science education program co-sponsored by the University of Michigan said (via CNN). "Only one species, the medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis, has been given legal protection. The species was found throughout Europe and western Asia but has been so heavily collected for medical use and research that it is extinct in many parts of its range."
Per the statement from the CBP, the leeches were turned over to USFW agents.
The endangered leeches aren't the only wildlife-related seizures made by Philadelphia CBP officers recently. In January, officers seized a taxidermied bird in a display case. The bird was labeled as a Little Auk bird, a bird that is indigenous to the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans and the Bering Sea. The bird was being shipped from Hull, U.K. to Quebec, Canada and last year, CBP officers seized protected crocodile skins from Sierra Leon, Ivory products from poached tusks of protected pachyderms, and even a taxidermied Little Ring Plover. that was in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
What do you think about the seizure of the medicinal leeches? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!