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St. Paul woman accused of smuggling elephant parts

  • Star Tribune
  • December 9, 2009 - 9:01 PM

A 56-year-old St. Paul woman has been indicted on charges that she smuggled elephant parts and dead birds into the United States from southeast Asia two years ago.

Seng Her was stopped by U.S. Customs officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in November 2007 after visiting Laos, according to the indictment filed Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis.

Along with the parts of an Asian elephant, an endangered species, Her also smuggled in several dead birds including yellow-vented flowerpeckers, tailorbirds, prinias and passerines, the indictment said. Their import is prohibited without permits.

Six months earlier, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned Her in a letter about importing undeclared wildlife into the country.

The indictment also alleged that Her was stopped two years earlier, also at the Twin Cities airport, and had with her pieces of elephant hide, birds and other wildlife, "including several threatened and endangered species." A month later, federal authorities at the Los Angeles International Airport intercepted a package sent from Laos and addressed to Her in Minnesota that contained "suspected endangered and protected species of wildlife," the indictment read.

In recent years, the federal agency has become increasingly concerned about international trade in raw endangered wildlife products, a market that is fueled by traditional East Asian medicinal and cultural needs.

PAUL WALSH

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