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CBP Encounters Unique Threats to America’s Agriculture at Washington Dulles

Release Date: 
July 15, 2014

STERLING, Va. — One of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) border enforcement priorities is to intercept agriculture products that pose potential threats to America’s agriculture industries. The usual interceptions consist of prohibited meats and fruits. But sometimes, CBP agriculture specialists encounter some really unusual discoveries, including three recent cases.

Primate Teeth Necklace

A traveler from the African nation of Gabon arrived June 18 with a necklace made of mandrill teeth. A mandrill is a primate closely related to the baboon. The passenger claimed to be a voodoo priest and he said he used the necklace for spiritual rituals. In consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a decision was made July 3 to destroy the necklace due to the possible introduction of Ebola, HIV, monkey pox or other viruses or diseases.

“Good Luck” Primate Skull

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists encountered this primate skull with feathers May 22, 2014 at Washington Dulles International Airport. (CBP Photo/Handout)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists encountered this primate skull with feathers May 22, 2014 at Washington Dulles International Airport. (CBP Photo/Handout)

On May 22, CBP officers discovered a primate skull in the baggage of a traveler from Russia. The skull was not cleaned, and it was topped by feathers that also were not cleaned. The passenger claimed she purchased the skull in Togo and that skull was a token of “good luck.” In consultation with CDC and USFWS, a decision was made June 25 to destroy the skull for the same reason as the primate teeth necklace. The contaminated feathers also presented an avian disease risk as well.

The travelers in these two incidents failed to declare their prohibited products to CBP during their inspections.

Dead Bats, Mongoose

CBP agriculture specialists encountered a traveler who arrived from the South Sudan May 24 with scientific research samples contained inside a five gallon bucket. The bucket contained small dead animals, including six species of bats, shrews, dormice, rats, mice, and Mongoose. The traveler did not possess appropriate import documents, and the samples were not properly packed for transport. In collaboration with CDC, USFWS and U.S. Department of Agriculture, all appropriate permits were attained and the scientific samples were properly preserved for shipment; CBP subsequently released the samples July 3.

In all three cases, CBP detained and safeguarded the products until authorities reached a final determination.

Agriculture Protection Mission

Title 9, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 94 (9CFR94) restricts the importation of animal products from countries that are known to have certain exotic foreign animal diseases, such as Foot and Mouth, and African and Classical Swine Fevers. The accidental or deliberate introduction of animal diseases poses a potentially significant threat to American livestock industries.

“Agriculture is a significant industry in the United States and one that is vital to our nation’s economic vitality. Protecting our nation’s agriculture industries is a very complex and challenging responsibility, and one that Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take most seriously,” said Stephen Kremer Acting CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles. “Our desire is for travelers to know what products are prohibited from the U.S. so that they don’t have to surrender their spiritual or good luck tokens. Visiting CBP’s and USDA’s websites are a good start.”

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and in the inspection of agricultural commodities.

On a typical day, CBP agriculture specialists inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,379 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 440 insect pests.

Visit CBP agriculture specialists webpage to learn more about their vital border security mission.

In addition to agriculture enforcement, CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international flights and intercepts narcotics, weapons, unreported currency, and other illicit contraband or prohibited items.

Visit CBP’s Travel webpage to learn rules governing travel to and from the U.S., and to learn about admissible and prohibited products.