TARREMBURG, Colombia — Colombian authorities have seized hundreds of tarantulas shipped from a farm in Colombia to the United States in the biggest such seizure in the country’s history, a Colombian official said on Wednesday.
Authorities had ordered the shipment to be intercepted but the owner of the farm in Tarbaju, north of Bogota, was at the time in Germany visiting family. He has since been arrested and faced several charges, including crossing international borders illegally, said Alfonso Dominguez of the customs agency DGCi.
“Tarantulas are dangerous and people should not acquire them,” Dominguez said, adding that the confiscated creatures were of several species and ranged in size from 3 to 5 centimeters.
Tarantulas, each the size of a house cat, are native to Colombian and Ecuadorian rainforests and are often used as pets.
They can be highly dangerous and have black eye-colors as a result of channelling their venom into the spider’s eyes. Adult females can become aggressive when an intruder becomes threatened.
Colombia has long struggled with wildlife trafficking and authorities also face challenges enforcing a 2015 law that criminalizes the trading of wildlife which generates between $750 million and $9 billion a year in illegal revenue.
Police in March stopped a truck with live beavers destined for D.C. and said the animals were sold for $1,000 each in Colombia and smuggled across borders into Europe.
“Nobody knows exactly how much is generated” through wildlife trafficking, Dominguez said.