Rare and beautiful, exotic animals have spurred an illegal trade worth more than $10 billion worldwide, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Live animals fuel an illegal pet trade, while products made from exotic animals, such as medicines and ivory carvings, can fetch large sums in the underground market. Given the possibility of enormous profits, smugglers use inventive methods to get live animals and their products inside U.S. borders.
While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service battles the illegal trade at the front lines, they are limited by staffing levels. At John F. Kennedy International Airport, for instance, there were just 15 agents to check the 46,514,154 passengers and 1,379,733 tons of air cargo that came through the airport in 2010. For every smuggler caught, there are many who go free.
From air, land and sea, these 12 examples show the risks smugglers will take in the hunt for large profits.
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By Jennifer Schlesinger