Published Tuesday, May 4, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Police officers of the Air Surveillance Service arrested a U.S. citizen surnamed Dale for allegedly carrying the head of a caiman in his luggage.--------------------------
According to the police report, the arrest took place on Saturday at the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, located in Liberia, Guanacaste Province.
During a routine search of the luggage of passengers departing the country, the officers found the head of the animal inside a bag in the suitcase of the expat.
In these cases, the airport police guideline orders that specialists from the National System of Conservation Areas must be consulted to confirm the airport officers' suspicions.
After the evaluation of the specialists, it was confirmed that it was the head of the reptile and not a handicraft souvenir.
Caimans, (Caiman Crocodilus) are relatively small-sized crocodilians, with an average maximum weight of 6 to 40 kilograms (13 to 88 pounds). They inhabit from Mexico to South America, in marshes, swamps, mangrove rivers and lakes.
In Costa Rica, this animal is a protected species. It is still feasible to find regular populations in the middle and lower basins of the Tempisque River, some rivers in the northern and southern Pacific Coast. For example, they’re in the lower basin of the Tárcoles River, at the mouth of the Savegre River or in the Térraba and Sierpe wetlands.
The animal's head was seized as part of the evidence in the case against the suspect, who was taken to the cells of the Public Prosecutor's Office in Liberia where he was accused by the authorities of allegedly violating the Wildlife Conservation Law.
This is the second case in a week of the arrest of a U.S. citizen at an airport for being suspected of trafficking reptiles.
Last week, the officers of the same international airport, in Guanacaste Province, detained a U.S. citizen, surnamed Scott, as a suspect of trafficking wild animals.
According to the police report, during a routine check of the man's luggage, the officers detected suspicious content inside. During a more in-depth inspection, authorities found 13 reptiles inside the suspect's suitcases.
In total, seven snakes and six lizards were found hidden in his luggage when he intended to leave the country, Otto Arrieta, chief of the Airport Police said.
Officers seized the animals with agents from the National Animal Health Service.
The U.S. expat was taken to the Liberia Canton Prosecutor's Office, on suspicion of trafficking wild animals.
Airport officers posted a short video of the wild animals being seized on the Ministry of Security Facebook page.
Trading or capturing wild animals for captivity is a crime in Costa Rica.
Wild flora and fauna are protected by Wildlife Conservation Law No. 7317. According to the law, those who are found guilty of keeping wild animals will be fined between $1,400 and $2,800. In the case of wild animals in danger of extinction or with small populations, these fines could be higher.
Under the law, any person who is found responsible for committing an environmental or wildlife crime could face a prison sentence of one year.
Agents of the National Animal Health Service call on the population to report any suspicion of captivity or trade of wild animals to the 911 line.
What have you heard of expats keeping wild animals as pets? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org