Florida Flying Squirrel Poaching Ring Arrested, 3,600 Rodents Trafficked Internationally

24 Octobre, 2020, 18:37 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Flying squirrel trafficking ring busted by Florida wildlife officials Report

State and federal task forces were created to investigate the operation, which was first reported by a concerned citizen in January 2019. He was charged with money laundering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering, scheme to defraud, grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

7 individuals were charged as part of a supposed trafficking ring that sent out countless flying squirrels from Florida to South Korea, authorities stated Monday.

More than 10,000 squirrel traps were deployed to catch as many as 3,600 flying squirrels in less than three years, said a report by The Hill, noting the total estimated cost after worldwide sales is upwards of a million dollars. Knox was arrested in April.

The removal of the trafficked squirrels from their ecosystems could have an impact on their predators, like owls and "rat snakes that are really good climbers", Johnson said, though because the squirrels have a high reproductive rate, the population will most likely be able to bounce back fairly quickly from the poaching. The flying squirrels are nocturnal and are probably a nuisance to have around at night.

The FWC was aided in its investigation by the Illinois Conservation Police, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.

This wildlife dealer who is from Florida too, worked with couriers from Georgia who then drove these squirrels north to Chicago. Grant Burton, FWC Investigation's section leader, in a statement.

The agency said the Florida dealer received more than $213,000 for the animals.

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The Florida dealers involved in the plot sold the creatures to buyers from South Korea, according to the FWC.

A total of 25 felony charges have been made and additional charges and arrests may be pending, according to the FWC.

From Chicago, the squirrels were flown to Asia "by an unwitting global wildlife exporter", the press release states.

"Documents were falsified, concealing the true source of the wildlife", Knowles said.

FWC investigators later learned the suspects were also selling other protected animals, like freshwater turtles and alligators.

The Florida Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the case.

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