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Man Stopped at Airport With 5K Leeches Had Weird Claim

He allegedly said his orchids needed them
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2019 2:11 PM CST
Updated Feb 2, 2019 10:30 AM CST
A medicinal leech is shown in this stock photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The beagle sat down next to the Canadian man at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Oct. 17, 2018, and the jig was up. Clued in by the dog, officials searched the man's bags and found containers holding 5,000 leeches. National Geographic has the story, which it says hasn't been made public; as such, the name of the "alleged illegal leech importer," who has a court date Feb. 15 and was flying in from Russia when he was stopped, hasn't been released. But an intelligence manager employed by Canada's environmental department has the man's alleged story: that he planned to put the leeches to personal use and use their waste water on his orchids. The quantity suggests something else: that the plan may actually have been to find buyers for the parasitic worms, which can be put to "uses such as treating frostbite and helping with recovery from face lifts."

They can go for about $10 each, making his supply—a collection of southern medicinal leeches and European medicinal leeches—worth an estimated $50,000. Those species fall under an endangered species treaty that requires the right export-import permits be secured before transporting the leeches. National Geographic goes on to detail the difficulty Canadian officials have had with finding a home for the leeches. Since they're threatened, the officials don't want to do away with them, but the government doesn't want to house them (especially after 20 of them temporarily escaped). So far, it has managed to unload only 1,500 of them. Read the full story here to find out where they went. (Read more strange stuff stories.)

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