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10 Other Illegal Animals on a Plane

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Animal smugglers have some serious baggage.

1. A pet turtle

It's tough leaving your pets behind when you go on a trip. On July 29, a man in Guangzhou, China tried to sneak his beloved turtle on a flight to Beijing by hiding the reptile between two hamburger buns and stowing it in a fast food container. When X-ray screening revealed that the meal had tiny legs, the man played it cool and told security, "There's no turtle in there, just a hamburger."

2. Endangered tortoises

In March, animal traffickers in Thailand nearly pulled off something even more shell-shocking—the smuggling of more than 10 percent of an entire endangered species of tortoise. A man was arrested when he tried to pick up a suitcase containing 54 of the approximately 400 ploughshare tortoises left in Madagascar. The luggage also include 21 endangered radiated tortoises.

3. Dried caterpillars

Snacks on a plane! A British man was forced to hand over 206 pounds of dried caterpillars that he brought back from Africa as a tasty souvenir. His intention wasn't suspect—the same emperor moth larvae are already sold and consumed in the U.K. The Border Force was simply following import restrictions. So much for caterpillars and chips...

4. Otters

Security at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport discovered 11 baby otters in an abandoned bag in January. The marine mammals were likely destined for the illegal pet trade. Rescued baby otters can't be returned to the wild, so they'll spend the rest of their days in zoos.

5. A charm of hummingbirds

Is that a dozen hummingbirds in your pants, or are you just happy to see me? Customs officials at Rochambeau Airport in French Guiana detained a fidgety Dutch tourist in September 2011. When he was searched, they found not one, not two, but a dozen live hummingbirds swaddled in individual pouches sewn into his pants. A group of hummingbirds is called a charm, but being smuggled out of the country in some tourist's crotch? Not so charming.

6. A crocodile

Ideally, animal smugglers get caught before they get on a plane. But in October 2010, a domestic flight in the Democratic Republic of Congo turned to chaos when a crocodile escaped the duffel bag it was stowed in. Passengers and crew panicked and ran through the cabin. The plane eventually crashed, killing everyone except for a single passenger and the crocodile. Survival of the fittest? Not so much. The crocodile was later killed.

7. A tiger cub

A woman in Thailand failed to earn her stripes when she tried to smuggle a three-month-old tiger cub from Bangkok to Iran. Her strategy: Putting the drugged cub in a suitcase full of stuffed animals. X-ray screening revealed that one of the cuddly cats had a full skeleton. It was also snoring. Oops.

8. Tropical fish

In June 2005, one traveler made a splash when she flew from Singapore to Melbourne, Australia with a veritable aquarium under her skirt. (Some of us can barely manage a carry-on and one personal item!) Customs officials first suspected something fishy when they heard mysterious sloshing noises. A security pat-down revealed an apron with 15 plastic bags containing 51 tropical catfish. The fish were valued at $30,000, while the woman faced a fine of $83,617. Watching the Little Mermaid get busted: priceless.

9. A chameleon

Sometimes the best place to hide your contraband creature is out in the open. In July 2002, a 17-year-old girl managed to fly from Dubai to Manchester, England with her pet chameleon on her headscarf. The color-changing lizard didn't blend in entirely. Airline employees and passengers just assumed it was a plastic hair clip ... until it flicked out its tongue.

10. Birds and rare orchids and slow lorises, oh my!

In 2002, a California man was flying under the radar on his return trip from Thailand ... until a bird of paradise flew out of his suitcase. Customs found three more birds and 50 rare orchids in the luggage. The man then confessed that he had a pair of endangered slow lorises in his underwear. (Uh, that's what she said?) The man claimed he was an environmentalist trying to transport the animals to a wildlife sanctuary. The four birds ultimately died, and the slow lorises were sent to the Los Angeles Zoo.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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