A Canadian man has been charged with smuggling and illegal trading, after border officers caught him with 51 turtles stuffed into his pants and taped to his legs.
Recently unsealed court documents say that Kai Xu, 26, was trying to smuggle the turtles from Detroit into Windsor, Ontario last month. The Guardian reports that two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents saw Xu disappear behind two semi-trailers at a boarder crossing. After he reappeared, they noticed “irregularly shaped bulges under Xu’s sweatpants on both legs.”
According to The Canadian Press, officials seized the turtles, which included diamondback terrapins, eastern box turtles and red-eared sliders. Diamondback terrapins are considered “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the eastern box turtle is considered “vulnerable.”A second man working with Xu, Lihua Lin, has also been charged in a separate smuggling incident after over 200 turtles were found in his luggage at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Lin was bound for Shanghai.
Although stuffing turtles into one’s pants may seem like an unusual choice, it’s far from the first case. In 2010, a man was caught trying to smuggle lizards in his underwear. In an even more bizarre incident last summer, a man was caught trying to get on an airplane with a turtle disguised as a hamburger.
Turtles may be smuggled to Asia to be sold as pets or for food. According to a joint UN/INTERPOL report, the illegal trade in wildlife may be valued anywhere between $70 to $213 billion U.S. dollars per year globally.