December 9, 2010 / 11:02 PM / 7 years ago

Elephants tails, hedgehog seized from traveler's luggage

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Surprised U.S. Customs inspectors found elephant tails, a dried hedgehog and chameleons in the bags of an African traveler arriving at a Washington area airport, authorities said on Thursday.

Inspectors at Washington-Dulles International Airport discovered the items during the routine search of a Ghanaian man’s luggage on December 3, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said in a news release.

Other items in the unnamed 59-year-old’s bags included chicken feathers, bloody sheets, seed pods and soil, which were to be used for “spiritual purposes,” said Christopher Hess, CBP’s Washington port director.

“This is by far one of the strangest suitcases we’ve ever opened,” Hess said of the discovery at the airport, which last year processed more than three million international passengers.

“Regardless of its intended purpose, each item posed potentially severe animal and plant disease threats to American agriculture,” he added.

Inspectors confiscated and incinerated all the items except the two elephant tails, which were handed over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The traveler was issued a warning and released after Agricultural inspectors explained U.S. regulations to him.

Writing by Tim Gaynor; editing by Greg McCune

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