NY’s haul of the wild
By Stefanie Cohen
Last Updated: 10:51 AM, December 27, 2009
Posted: 4:03 AM, December 27, 2009
Pickled cobra that “cures” kidney problems. Chinese Viagra made with deer penis. Balms filled with powdered tiger bone. Bushels of bushmeat.
These are just a few of the exotic and unlawful imports that pour into New York City daily.
And when the black-market booty is not seized by federal agents at airports, they can be found on the shelves of China town apothecaries, Bronx botanicas or swap meets in ethnic neighborhoods throughout the city.
Last week, feds arrested Simon Chaw for stuffing 16 live Asian Bonytongue fish into his suitcase, which he brought on a flight from Malaysia. He’d packed the fish in bags of water and protected them with Styrofoam.
“We had 10 million passengers come into JFK last year, and I have 12 inspectors,” said Bob Onda, who supervises US Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors at JFK and La Guardia airports.
A Post interpreter was told recently in Chinatown that he could buy bear gall bladder to clean his blood, and deer penis to improve his sexual prowess.
Inspectors say many strange objects are used in so-called traditional Chinese medicines — thought to cure everything from a toothache to cancer.
Onda said the Chinese use “medicine mules” like other cultures use “drug mules” — smuggling into the country thousands of hidden pills containing ground-up tiger and leopard bone.
“If they get it by us they mule it into Chinatown,” he said.
This month, a Liberian-born Staten Island woman, Mamie Manneh, was sentenced to three years probation for smuggling 65 pieces of African bushmeat from illegally poached wild animals.
Because the laws that govern trade in wildlife make it illegal to import some objects but legal to sell them once they’re in the country, City Hall passed a law in 2004 making it illegal to sell any products that claim to contain rhino and tiger parts.
Still, inspectors are constantly surprised by the strange imports they encounter — such as the cobra pickled in rice wine that was found on a recent flight from Thailand to JFK.
“It’s like drugs,” Onda said. “If there’s a market for it, people will find a way to bring it into the country.”
Show Comments (0)