CINCINNATI–- A shipment of plastic toys turned out to have something a little more alive inside them at the Cincinnati Port of Entry last Tuesday. Agriculture Specialists were inspecting incoming freight from Barcelona, Spain, when they noticed some unusual padding around a particular toy character. Specialists opened the packaging and realized the oddly shaped items were smuggled praying mantis egg cases.
Mantids naturally occur in the United States, but some foreign species are illegally traded as pets. Mantid smuggling has been on the rise lately, and previously this year CBP found other shipments of live mantids and egg cases transiting through Cincinnati. Several months ago, officers and agriculture specialists in Philadelphia found smuggled mantid egg cases in a computer gaming mouse. In late February, agriculture specialists in Louisville, KY found egg masses and larvae concealed in Xbox controllers.
“Our officers and specialists are dedicated to protecting America and our agricultural and natural resources,” said Cincinnati Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Barbara Hassan. “They are trained to locate and identify anything that might threaten those valuable and beloved sectors of our economy and our national assets. They also work closely with other agencies to protect illegally trafficked and threatened or endangered species.”
"Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that impacts a variety of species throughout the world," said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "In this case, mantis eggs were illegally smuggled and hidden in a box of toys. Fortunately, our partners at USDA APHIS apprehended the package and worked closely with our Wildlife Inspectors to seize the shipment. I would like to thank the USDA and CBP for their assistance with this case. Together, we can conserve species - and protect our nation's natural resources - for future generations."
Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie agrees. “Our agriculture specialists excel at pinpointing shipments that deserve a closer look.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates the importation of live insects into the United States. Importers are required to attain permits and meet requirements for importing live insects.
CBP agriculture specialists are charged with the challenging task of safeguarding our nation’s agricultural resources by examining international trade shipments and traveler baggage every day for invasive insects, federal noxious weeds, and plant and animal diseases. They have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection.