A man from Niagara Falls, Ont. has been fined $15,000 after he was busted flying into Canada with a traveling bag full of leeches.
Accordant to ECCC (Environment and Climate Change Canada), in his carry-on luggage Ippolit Bodounov attempted to smuggle 4,789 live, medicinal leeches. From Russia he’d just flown to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Bodounov toted the leeches in a sizable reusable grocery bag, stated Gerry Brunet, ECCC’s wildlife enforcement directorate Operations Manager, located in Burlington, Ont. Inside that bag were 10 dampened, smaller cloth bags. A canine working alongside border agents smelled the leeches, explained Brunet. “This is our first large-scale illegal leech import,” he noted, though the ministry sees a plethora of illegally imported turtles, tortoises and snakes and reptiles.
The ministry shipped the leeches to the Royal Ontario Museum, where curator of invertebrate zoology (Sebastian Kvist) confirmed them as Hirudo verbana, a menaced medicinal leech. Astonishingly, all the leeches survived, said Kvist. Roughly 240 were then sent to New York to the American Museum of Natural History, where DNA mapping of their stomach contents disclosed they were caught in the wild. Persons have been harvesting the species for medicinal aims since medieval times, Kvist added. “New age” practitioners of medicine utilize them for everything from preventing baldness to lessening arthritis pain, he expressed, though there’s no scientific proof yet that this works. In medicine the one proven use of leeches, he stressed, is to induce blood flow in reattached toes and fingers. In random cases, they too deter strokes.
Per leech, medicinal leeches sell for between $8 and $20, he remarked. On May 29, Bodounov plead guilty to breaching the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. He was banned for a year from exporting, importing and possessing any animals regulated via the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; and he was fined, as well. The illegal wildlife trade is worth approx $20 billion a year, Brunet furthered. “Canada does not tolerate the exploitation of threatened species for profit,” he claimed.
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