By Jeff Burnside
Law enforcement agencies are cracking down on traffickers who smuggle rare and protected animals, and they say western Washington is a key trans-shipment point.
Prosecutors say animals, both alive and dead, are being shipped around the world, and some of the meat is ending up on restaurant plates labeled as something else.
Armed with biology degrees and keen eyes, US Fish and Wildlife inspectors Marcy Jullian and Ashley Skeen hunt smugglers. One recent bust landed them a crate full of African safari trophies.
All but one of the trophies was legal, but Skeen and Jullian soon spotted an endangered Bontebok antelope, which is on the brink of extinction in the wild. The animal's hide was removed to make it look like a legal antelope.
Federal prosecutor Jim Oesterle will take that evidence and try to get a conviction.
"I do have an interest in protecting species, protecting wildlife," Oesterle said. "But more than that, I have an interest in enforcing the laws. Some species are already being trafficked into extinction in some cases, and we have a responsibility."
An undercover video shows Quyen To selling Asian arowana fish to an undercover cooperating witness. He sells two of the fish for $6,850, and two more to an undercover agent. His aquarium shop is in Seattle's International District.
Asian arowana are almost extinct in the wild. Aquarium hobbyists can get captive bred, but both are illegal to buy and sell in the United States.
To knows that, because he admits to trafficking in the past. More....