You may have seen in the news this week that a convicted German man was sentenced to prison in a case of illegal live tarantula smuggling. What you may not realize is that the tarantulas that survived the smuggling are now being cared for at Woodland Park Zoo.
Here’s what happened: In March 2010, federal agents intercepted an international attempt to smuggle nearly 300 live tarantulas in a sting operation called (no joke) “Operation Spiderman.” Agents found several different kinds of tarantulas, including species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in the intercepted package.
The confiscated tarantulas were sent to Woodland Park Zoo last year where we have given them a temporary home in a behind-the-scenes area of our Bug World exhibit. Since the tarantulas had been considered evidence in the case, we have not been able to tell you about them until now. In effect, these tarantulas were in witness protection here at the zoo.
Sadly, some of them died within the first week of getting here after suffering from poor conditions through the smuggling effort. But our keepers have been providing top-notch care and around 200 of the tarantulas have pulled through and remain under our care. We’re currently talking with other Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoos around the country looking for long-term homes for these survivors.
As part of our commitment to animal welfare, Woodland Park Zoo often assists with illegal animal confiscations. When we can, we try to provide a home for these rescued animals in need of the expert care that our keepers and vets can provide, or we work to find a suitable home for them. But we cannot take in all confiscations or abandoned exotic pets, so please think carefully and follow all applicable laws if you plan to acquire any animals.
Photos by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.