Ecuadorean authorities say they have arrested a Japanese man for attempting to illegally traffic wildlife out of the country as he tried to board his flight out of Quito with over 250 specimens spiders and insects, both living and preserved.
Allegedly a scientist, Hirokazu S. told authorities at the Quito airport where his stash of specimens was detected in a routine luggage search, that he planned to take the invertebrates to Hokkaido in northern Japan, said Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment.
The biologist has been arrested and a Quito judge charged Hirokazu S. with trying to steal national genetic patrimony in violation of the nation’s penal code.
Hirokazu is not allowed to leave the South American country while he awaits his trial set to begin next week, according to the ministry. Stealing cultural patrimony can carry a five year prison sentence in Ecuador.
Biologist at the Natural Museum at the Polytechnical University, Vladimir Carvajal, gave an expert testimony at the initial hearing saying he identified a variety of spiders, scorpions, cockroaches, leaf insects, beetles, wasps, bees, and butterflies amongst the animals found in Hirokazu’s luggage. The biologist said the species “aren’t threatened or protected by international agreements.”
The authorities suspect that the Japanese scientist hoped to conduct “genetic and biological studies” on the specimens that have been sent to a wildlife management center.