Thanks to reports from community members, on Monday, January 25 Colombia’s Environmental and Ecological Police in the Southwestern department of Nariño along the border with Ecuador arrested two Germans, one Polish and one Venezuelan illegally transporting captured wild fauna; specifically 9 specimens of tarantulas that they had captured.
Behamin Sebastián Benedikt Weber, Auer Hans Werner Schmitz, Lucasz Tomasz Banas and Daniel Alejandro Calacaño Sánchez were charged with illegal use of renewable natural resources, violating borders for the purpose of exploiting natural resources, and trespassing in areas of special importance.
A local magistrate released the suspects on bail, but Colombian prosecutors are appealing that decision.
Highway and wildlife police set up a checkpoint near the hamlet of Piedrancha, the county (municipal) seat of Mallama, Nariño to capture the alleged smugglers after receiving local tips. When stopped, the foreigners could not justify their possession of the wildlife. During the stop, plastic boxes containing nine spiders and a spider egg were found,
According to Colombian prosecutors, the wildlife has a black market value of $27 million Colombian pesos, or roughly $7,600 USD. Prosecutors say one of the German suspects presented an authorization by a German museum, but foreign museums have no authority to contravene Colombian environmental laws.
Last year alone, 19,609 species of birds, mammals and reptiles were recovered by Colombian authorities, and 2,405 people were prosecuted for the crimes of illicit use of natural resources, animal abuse and illicit handling of exotic species.
Illegal capture, abuse, and trafficking of Colombian wildlife, including fragile and endangered species is a serious problem in Colombia, and treated as a very serious criminal offense. Authorities urge the community to report any behavior or conduct that affects the environment, natural resources and endangers the natural ecosystems of the country by calling the national emergency service line 123.