MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Philippine customs officials were astonished when they opened nicely gift-wrapped boxes of cookies and oatmeal flown in all the way from Poland and found a hair-raising contraband: hundreds of live tarantulas.
Bureau of Customs personnel seized the 757 tarantulas at a mail exchange center near Manila’s international airport Monday and later arrested a Filipino man who tried to claim the long-legged and venomous spiders, which were declared as “collection items.”
Many of the baby tarantulas were concealed in small plastic vials punctured with holes for air while bigger spiders were shipped in see-through plastic containers. Officials estimated the value of the unusual shipment at 310,000 pesos ($5,900).
Philippine wildlife laws prohibit the trading, collection and possession of such spiders, which are popular pets among arachnid enthusiasts, without permits.
Despite threats of hefty fines and imprisonment, a startling array of wildlife have been seized by the hundreds by airport customs inspectors in Manila since last year, including geckos, iguanas, chameleons and a popular reptile called bearded dragons.