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Wildlife Trafficking: Man Arrested After Smuggling 93 Exotic Birds in His Luggage, Only 8 Birds Survived

May 05, 2017 08:08 AM EDT
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According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, the man arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on March 24. As his bags were being scanned, they discovered 50 birds that were dying and 43 more that were already dead. Only eight birds survived the ordeal.
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

An Orange County man was arrested in Tuesday after 93 exotic birds, most of them endangered, were discovered in his luggage on March.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, the man arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on March 24. As his bags were being scanned, they discovered 50 birds that were dying and 43 more that were already dead. Only eight birds survived the ordeal.

"Importing certain illegal wildlife, such as these avian species, can not only introduce communicable animal diseases into the United States, but they can also pose a threat to our local ecosystem," said Jill Birchell, FWS Special Agent in Charge, in a statement.

ABC 7 reported that the 49-year-old man was identified as Kurtis Law. The suspect was released on bond after appearing in court on Tuesday. His next scheduled court date is on June 5. He will spend 20 years in federal prison if convicted for smuggling goods into the United States.

"CBP works closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to make wildlife traffickers accountable for all violations of law. In this case, CBP's unwavering commitment and proactive partnership actions with FWS investigators resulted in a decisive federal criminal complaint that led to the arrest and arraignment of the suspect," said Carlos C. Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles, in a statement.

Wildlife trafficking, worth an estimated $10 billion a year, is thought to be the third most valuable unlawful business in the world; it comes after drugs and weapons, Smithsonian Magazine noted, citing the US State Department as the source. Two million to five million wild birds are traded illegally worldwide every year.

As explained by Mother Board, carrying exotic species from another country to the United States is allowed if there's a permit and other required documents are produced.

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