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Zoo takes in smuggled tarantulas

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

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.


Kelly said…
WOW!! I'm so not a spider person but those poor things. How sad that 100 of them had to die. As creepy as they are, they are at the same time beautiful. I'm not saying that I want one as a pet or even want to see one in person but I really feel sorry for them to be taken out of their habitat and smuggled into our country only for a good bunch of them to die. Thank you for doing your part in saving the ones that you could and good luck in finding them new permanent homes.
Andy said…
So, are they an exhibit now? Can we come check them out??
Thanks for your kind words, Kelly!

We've been keeping them behind-the-scenes for the past year because of the legal case, and we're looking for other accredited-zoo homes for most of them. We don't know yet how many or which types may remain here at the zoo, but if any end up on exhibit, we'll be sure to share!
BA said…
Good luck little spiders!!!
Kuei-Ti Lu said…
Although I am afraid of spiders, it is still sad to see them suffer or die (as long as they do not bother me, they are cute). As spiders, many species are smuggled and die in the process. I hope no more creature is smuggled and hope all the tarantulas can find a nice new home.
Ken The Bug Guy said…
Good to hear they actually went to a good place though.
Anonymous said…
I hope they are ok, and they can have a safe sound life after this is all over, even though I am terrified of tarantulas. :)