By Brian Sumers
Nearly a half-pound of elephant meat. A dead primate. Almost 400 snake, lizard and crocodile skin handbags.
That's among the loot recovered during five days in early May by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents in Los Angeles, officials say.
"Several of these were endangered species and under the highest level of protection," said Jill Birchell, special agent in charge for Fish and Wildlife in California and Nevada.
The handbags came May 6 through Los Angeles International Airport, brought in luggage by a 31-year-old man from Nigeria, customs officials said. Among them were 98 bags made from African rock pythons, 19 from monitor lizards, 85 from dwarf crocodiles and 179 from cobras, officials said. The bags would have been sold on the American market, though their quality is not as good as pricey designer handbags, Birchell said.
"They are generally rougher," she said. "They are not as high dollar as some of the Gucci handbags that come in from Italy. These wouldn't be anywhere near that valuable. "
The other seizures came at the international mail facility near LAX, officials said. On May 9, inspectors found Asian elephant meat tucked inside plant material in a shipment from Thailand bound for Fresno.
Birchell said some cultures could try to use the meat for food or medicinal purposes. More....