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Punishment for Man Who Had 5K Leeches in Carry-On Bag

Ippolit Bodounov was first large-scale leech-smuggler ever busted by Canadian authorities
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2019 12:33 AM CDT
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Authorities say a dog working with border agents smelled the leeches.   (Environment and Climate Change Canada)

(Newser) – A Canadian man has been fined the equivalent of $11,102 for wildlife smuggling, which works out to around $2.30 for each of the 4,788 leeches he brought in his carry-on luggage on a flight from Russia to Toronto last year. Ippolit Bodounov, the first large-scale leech-smuggler ever busted by Canadian authorities, had the bloodsucking worms in cloth bags inside a large-reusable grocery bag when he was stopped on Oct. 17, the CBC reports. He claimed they were for "personal use," though authorities believe he planned to sell them for medicinal use for up to $20 each. Sebastian Kvist, curator of invertebrate zoology at the Royal Ontario Museum, says "new age" medicine practitioners use them for many purposes, though there is little proof they are effective at anything other than stimulating blood flow in reattached digits.

The leeches, all of which survived, "were identified as Hirudo verbana, one of only two species of medicinal leech that are subject to regulations aimed at controlling wildlife trade," Environment Canada said in a press release. Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York determined that they had been caught in the wild. Bodounov, who pleaded guilty to violating wildlife laws, also had to forfeit the leeches. He has been banned for a year from possessing animals regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. (Read more leech stories.)

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