Wildlife Trafficking: 130 Poisonous Frogs Found Inside Luggage of Brazilian Woman at Colombia Airport

Poisonous frogs were found inside the luggage of a Brazilian woman at a Colombia airport in South America on Monday, January 29. Local authorities arrested the woman and charged her with wildlife trafficking. Officials at Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport found 130 toxic frogs inside small film canisters, in what they describe to be in dire health conditions.

The seized amphibians are known as harlequin frogs (Atelopus varius), which are highly toxic animals that are found in Central America and South America. Their population is decreasing and conservation authorities have classified A. varius as a critically endangered species. However, wildlife trafficking and continuous demand by international private collectors pose a threat to the frogs.

Poisonous Frogs Found in Luggage

Wildlife Trafficking: 130 Poisonous Frogs Found Inside Luggage of Brazilian Woman at Colombia Airport
(Photo : Photo by Ladd Greene on Unsplash)

The poisonous frogs were in a state of dehydrated and stressful conditions when they were found by the authorities inside the woman’s luggage. The alleged smuggler was reportedly bound for the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo via Panama. According to reports, the amphibians can be sold for up to $1,000 each, according to Bogota police commander Juan Carlos Arevalo.

The suspected wildlife trafficker was caught after airport authorities searched the woman’s suitcase, containing 130 harlequin poison-dart frogs. The 37-year-old passenger was stopped by uniformed airport police before even boarding the flight with a stop in Panama. Details of the busted frog-trafficking incident are according to a new release by the National Police of Colombia on Monday.

Furthermore, the arrested woman claimed that the tiny harlequin frogs were a “gift” from a local community in an unspecified location in southern Colombia. Local officials also estimated that the Brazilian woman was carrying the contraband frogs worth $130,000 in total, intended to be bought by international private collectors. No other arrests have been made in connection to the incident.

Also Read: Poisonous Frogs: How to Identify Poisonous from Venomous Animals?

Wildlife Trafficking

This is not the first time that frogs were smuggled through an airport, as previous related cases are part of illegal wildlife trade or wildlife trafficking. In its World Wildlife Crime Report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stated that the trafficking of wildlife is increasingly recognized as both a specialized crime and a danger to many of the world’s plant and animal species.

This underground, black market activity involves not only amphibians but also other animals, including mammals and reptiles, ranging from elephants to pangolins, and rhinoceroses. The main driving force of this trade is from collectors or customers that demand these wild animals, including their body parts. These activities have persisted over the past several decades.

In 2022, two women were arrested in Thailand for the alleged trafficking of at least 109 live animals, including chameleons, snakes, and turtles. In 2011, a Dutch passenger was caught smuggling over a dozen live hummingbirds from French Guiana. In 2010, a baby tiger cub was found inside a woman’s suitcase while trying to fly from Bangkok to Iran.

Related Article: Airport X-Ray Finds 109 Live Animals in Luggage; Authorities Detains Two Passengers

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