Dulles Customs Officials Get Suitcase Surprise

Thursday, Dec 9, 2010  |  Updated 4:16 PM EDT
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Dulles Customs Officials Get Suitcase Surprise

Customs and Border Protection

Customs inspectors were in for quite a surprise when they saw what was in a man's suitcase at Dulles International Airport recently upon his arrival from Ghana.

What was inside? How about a plethora of animal products, including a dried hedgehog, elephant tails, chameleons, genet skins, seed pods, bloody sheets and a lot of soil.

Umm, explanation please...

"This is by far one of the strangest suitcases we've ever opened," said Christopher Hess of Customs and Border Protection. "The passenger told us that the items were to be used for spiritual purposes. From what we were able to learn, the items seem consistent with that explanation."

The discovery was made Friday. The passenger, 59, had declared dried herbs and clothing. But the secondary inspection revealed so much more.

According to the CBP, they found:

  • Sheets contaminated with chicken blood, reportedly from a sacrificed chicken
  • One genet skin
  • Two elephant tails
  • Five chicken feathers
  • One dried hedgehog
  • Two dried chameleons
  • Grass
  • Pea and seed pods
  • Tree bark chips
  • Soil and a water jug containing soil
  • Herbs
  • Blood

Officials incinerated all of the items, except for the elephant tails, which violated endangered species laws. They were seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

What's the harm in transporting all that stuff into the U.S.?

"Regardless of its intended purpose, each item posed potentially severe animal and plant disease threats to American agriculture," Hess said.

The passenger, whose final destination was Maryland, abandoned the suitcase items. He was issued a warning and was released.

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