Two Vietnamese men, Duc Le and Sony Dong, were charged this week with eight counts of smuggling. Only the goods weren’t drugs or CDs—they were rare songbirds, which the men carried from Vietnam to Los Angeles. In their socks.
The weirdness went down like this: In March, Dong was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport when an airport worker noticed poop droppings on his socks and feathers popping out of his pants. When the Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors checked Dong’s pants, they found over a dozen songbirds pinned to his socks, each hung like a Christmas ornament.
Millions of birds are illegally trafficked overseas, stuffed inside boxes and bags to be sold on the black market. Dong smuggled songbirds, but other hobbyists specialize in transporting parrots, snakes, and numerous other birds. The global demand for cute, exotic pets encourages criminals to mine biodiverse hot spots for rare species to trade. Despite regulations to keep this from happening, people fascinated with owning their own wild pet fuels the smuggling trade.
After further investigation, authorities linked Dong to Le. Sure enough, when they searched Le’s Orange County home, they found 51 songbirds in an outside aviary. (In other words, Le had over $20,000 worth of birds in his backyard, since each bird can be sold on the black market for $400).
DISCOVER: Pet Trade
Image: flickr/ jaguardelplatanar