Around the world, tarantulas are kept as pets but many popular species are endangered in the wild. Photo credit: christopher.woo/Creative Commons
"Operation Spiderman"—which had nothing to do with the fictional crime-fighting web-slinger—came to an end this weekend with the arrest of Sven Koppler, a German man thought to be responsible for the smuggling of thousands of endangered spiders.
Authorities began tracking Koppler after intercepting a package concealing 300 spiders in March.To snare Koppler, agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department, ordered more spiders from the dealer. When a package arrived containing 70 live endangered tarantulas and one dead tarantula, they had the evidence they needed to make the arrest.
"Sending light and small packages containing tarantulas is the best way to avoid customs detection around the world," Koppler wrote in an email to undercover agents, adding that nine times out of 10, he could simply smuggle spiders in his luggage successfully.
Koppler was arrested in Los Angeles, where he had traveled to meet an associate. Authorities believe he has made more that $300,000 trafficking tarantulas around the world, including the United States.
If found guilty, Koppler could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine as large as $250,000.
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