Several arrests have been made on a years-long squirrel smuggling operation.
Animal trafficking is a long-running category of crime, and it’s a truly awful thing. Tearing animals from their native habitats, packing them into crates, and shipping them off to who-knows-where for who-knows-what is basically one of the most needlessly cruel things you can do. Though, if you’ll forgive me for playing devil’s advocate here, I would assume animals with some kind of obvious value like distinctive fur, tusks, or some other exotic feature would be prime targets for trafficking. Apparently, however, someone out there really has a thing for flying squirrels.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced today that several people had been arrested for conducting an elaborate trafficking operation centered around the native Floridian flying squirrel. According to the FWC’s reports, this group has trapped at least 3,600 squirrels over the last three years and shipped them off to foreign countries as exotic pets. These squirrels were then sold to an illicit dealer and then laundered under the guise of being bred in captivity. The dealer would then sell the squirrels to buyers, primarily from South Korea, who would then ship the squirrels out across Asia.
The FWC was able to nail these guys thanks to an anonymous tip about a year ago. This concerned Floridian made several reports about poachers illegally trapping flying squirrels, as well as other native Floridian wildlife like freshwater turtles and alligators.
“Wildlife conservation laws protect Florida’s precious natural resources from abuse. The concerned citizen who initially reported this activity started an investigation that uncovered a major smuggling operation,” Maj. Grant Burton, FWC Investigation’s section leader, said in a statement.
“These poachers could have severely damaged Florida’s wildlife populations.”
The FWC is currently hot on the trail of other participants in the trafficking ring, and more arrests are expected in the near future.