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'Tarantula trafficker' snared in huge bug bust

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'Tarantula trafficker' snared in huge bug bust
French 'tarantula trafficker' caught with thousands of spiders. Photo: Ben Sutherland/Flickr
12:26 CEST+02:00
In one of France's biggest bug busts ever, a man was caught with thousands of living and dead tarantulas as well as other exotic insects he sold on the black market, media reports said on Thursday.

An ex-hairdresser living on welfare was the target one of France’s biggest-ever bug seizures, after police found thousands of living and dead tarantulas and other exotic insects he was illegally selling to collectors, French daily Le Parisien reported.

A recent search of the unnamed man’s home in the northeastern town of Amnéville turned up 2,000-3,000 dead tarantulas that had been mounted in display boxes.

Agents also discovered two metres-cubed worth of individual display boxes that contained various species such as butterflies and beetles from exotics locals like New Guinea or Madagascar, French daily Le Parisien reported. Incredibly, those individual display boxes sell for €800-€1,000 a piece to bug enthusiasts.

The search uncovered and additional live 140 tarantulas, 10 or so scorpions and several baby tarantulas that were to be sold in Germany for €2,000 per spider. Most species of tarantulas are not dangerous to humans and in recent years have become popular in the exotic pet business. 

The suspect, who is famous in France for his passion for creepy crawlers, has long been under police surveillance. He’s been busted several times coming to France back from trips to Guyana, Brazil and Mexico with live insects in his baggage.

His numerous trips abroad also caught the attention of authorities because the ex-hairdresser was, at least on paper, only able to pay his bills with government welfare payments called RSA.

After monitoring the man’s activities, agents from the French government’s wildlife police at the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, moved in to arrest him on charges of violating national and international laws on protected species.

Police couldn’t provide a total value of the seized insects because the expert they have brought in to identify and value everything has completed his work yet.

This case echos that of another tarantula lover in France who was found dead in November 2013 surrounded by 50 some tarantulas in his home. Authorities later concluded he had not died as a result of a bite from his pet spiders.

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