December 16, 2008 / 5:11 PM / 11 years ago

Peru traffickers hide cocaine in smelly bird dung

A flock of starlings evades a predatory seagull in the dusk sky over Rome November 20, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

LIMA (Reuters) - Traffickers hid 2.8 tonnes of cocaine in thousands of pounds of smelly bird droppings, Peruvian police said on Monday after uncovering the latest ruse to conceal drug shipments.

Cocaine exporters in Peru, the world’s No. 2 producer after neighboring Colombia, counted on the stench of the dung, which is sold as a high-end organic fertilizer, tricking dogs trained to find drugs at ports of entry.

Guano, as the dung is known in Spanish, is rich in nitrates and phosphorous and has a strong ammonia smell. The cocaine was hidden in 400 bags of guano that together weighed 20 tonnes and was bound for Europe.

“The organic products camouflaged the cocaine by neutralizing it to avoid detection,” police said after a five-month investigation that led to the seizure at a warehouse in Lima about 10 days ago.

Five people were arrested, including a Colombian man, police said.

Guano accumulates as white mounds on the desert islands where birds such as pelicans live along the coasts of Peru and Chile.

It was once one of the world’s most valuable commodities, and Bolivia, Peru and Chile fought over its control in the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific.

Reporting by Diego Ore; writing by Terry Wade; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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