Sneak Peek #4: Butterflies on the Black Market

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One of the stranger stories in the new Jan/Feb issue -- just days away from hitting newsstands! -- is Ethan Trex's question and answer piece on the underground world of exotic animal smuggling. The piece answers all sorts of thorny questions about this illicit billion dollar industry, including who's buying and selling butterflies and baby gorillas. And while the entire story is fascinating, my favorite part is the bit below:

So, what's the best way to smuggle a monkey through an airport?

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In your pants, of course! But it doesn't always work out. Just ask the guy who tried to smuggle two pygmy monkeys into Los Angeles in 2002. He discreetly stuffed them into his underwear and traveled for more than 18 hours on a flight from Thailand. After the plane landed in LAX, his traveling companion blew their cover in customs, when several birds of paradise burst out of his suitcase and flew around the airport. After that, they were pretty much busted. More recently, another smuggler was caught hiding a monkey under his hat on a flight to Peru, and a female smuggler was caught strapping a monkey to her belly and pretending she was pregnant on her way from Thailand.

Yet, for some reason, stuffing animals in one's trousers seems to be the favorite tactic of smugglers; in 1995, two men were arrested at the Mexican border after customs officials noticed that the bulges in their pants were moving. It turns out that the slithering bumps were actually pantyhose filled with over a dozen snakes.
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The other part of the piece I absolutely love is the bit on the world's most dangerous butterfly poacher, and the story of the undercover agent who took him down. If you're interested, make our editors happy and check out a copy on the newsstand. Better yet, pair the subscription with a brand new mental_floss T-shirt and save yourself some money. Click here for details.

December 15, 2009 - 7:10am
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