300 Giant Cockroaches, Tarantulas, and Scorpions Found in Luggage at Colombian Airport

300 Giant Cockroaches, Tarantulas, and Scorpions Found in Luggage at Colombian Airport
One of the giant cockroaches found in the luggage of two German travellers accused of trying to illegally smuggle them to Europe. (Photo: Colombia’s Ministry of Environment)

Airport police in Colombia thwarted a pair’s attempt to leave the country with hundreds of unauthorised critters. Late last week, government officials reported that the travellers were stopped with over 300 tarantulas, scorpions, and giant cockroaches stuffed into their luggage as they were preparing to fly back to Germany, apparently without any of the needed paperwork to do so. The bugs have reportedly been taken to a government centre for trafficked or illegally owned wild animals, where they’ll be evaluated before either being relocated or released back into the wild.

According to Colombia’s Ministry of Environment, the alleged smuggling attempt was stopped last minute at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá. Airport authorities said they flagged suspicious cargo in the luggage of two German citizens as they were about to board a flight back home. When they looked closer, they unearthed 210 plastic containers and tubs containing a menagerie of creepy-crawlies. They then called on environment ministry officials to help identify the animals.

All told, 309 specimens were recovered. More than 200 were spiders, predominantly tarantulas. But there were also 67 giant cockroaches, a scorpion carrying some young, and several spider eggs. These arachnids and insects were likely collected somewhere in the wilds of San Luis de Gaceno in Boyacá, according to the ministry release.

When confronted, the German travellers said they were taking them away for legitimate research purposes. But authorities said that the pair didn’t have the permits, authorizations, or environmental licenses needed. The Ministry of Environment release says that the individuals will be prosecuted for their actions but did not list any specific charges.

As for the bugs, they were sent to Bogotá’s recently established Centro de Atención y Valoración de Flora y Fauna Silvestre, which translates to the Centre for the Attention and Assessment of Wild Flora and Fauna. The centre is meant to be a holding place for recovered animals that have been trafficked or illegally owned. Officials there will identify the species and then decide whether to release them into the wild or relocate them somewhere else.

Bug trafficking is apparently a booming business, with many customers willing to pay big bucks for exotic beetles, spiders, and other arthropods. But bugs are only a sliver of the wildlife crime industry. According to a 2020 UN report, some 6,000 species of flora and fauna have been seized by law enforcement officials since the late 1990s, with elephant tusks, pangolin scales, reptiles, and European glass eels being some of the most common finds.