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Monday, May 20, 2024

Poisonous tarantulas smuggled into Pakistan for ‘Hakim’

The suspect told the customs officials that he had brought the spiders from China for a Hakim in Peshawar, who paid him Rs50,000 and covered his travelling expenses for bringing the spiders in Pakistan. The article further explores illegal tarantula trade and use of tarantulas in traditional medicine in different parts of the world.

News Desk |

Customs officials at the Islamabad International Airport have foiled a bid to smuggle two tarantulas in Pakistan and arrested a passenger, who allegedly admitted that he brought the tarantula for a “Hakim” after the latter paid him Rs50,000 and covered his travelling expenses.

The authorities arrested the passenger, identified as Usman Khan who is a resident of Peshawar, on a tip-off that an attempt to smuggle spiders in Pakistan would be made. Following the arrest, Khan told the customs officials that he had brought the spiders from China for a Hakim in Peshawar, who paid him Rs50,000 and covered his travelling expenses for bringing the spiders in Pakistan.

Initially, the media reported, the customs officials could not detect the spiders as the smuggler had preserved them in two card boxes and kept them inside his jacket. After the recovery, Khan failed to produce any certificate from the wildlife department authorizing him to bring tarantulas in Pakistan.

The customs authorities said that Khan is a frequent traveler to China without revealing how many tarantulas he had smuggled into Pakistani before.

The suspect along with the tarantulas, the price of which is said to be in hundreds of thousands of dollars in international market, was handed over to the wildlife department for further legal proceeding.

Khan arrived by Emirates Airlines (flight No. EK-614) from China via Dubai. The customs authorities said that Khan is a frequent traveler to China without revealing how many tarantulas he had smuggled into Pakistani before.

Illegal Tarantula Trade

In 2018, Jani Actman, a freelance journalist in California covering wildlife crime and exploitation, reported for the National Geographic that the illegal tarantula trade is a little known corner of the black market in wildlife, a multibillion-dollar industry that’s harming animal populations around the globe.

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“Elephants and rhinos have been among the hardest hit, but smaller, more obscure animals are sought as pets or for use in traditional medicine and as novelty items, among other things,” she reported, “that includes tarantulas.”

Found in tropical and desert regions worldwide, the eight-eyed arachnids are highly diverse, she stated, with more than 900 species of varying sizes and colors, from cobalt blue to salmon pink. Some live in trees, others in underground burrows.

The Net-Geo’s report on the ‘illegal market for tarantulas is hairy business’ stated that a fireleg tarantula was one of the more than $40,000 worth of spiders, insects, and other crawlies stolen from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion in a suspected attempt to sell them into the pet trade.

In Cambodia, it said, tarantulas of the genus Haplopelma are used for several medical conditions, including the Maya people who use for bathing eyes which improves sight.

Earlier, while quoting media reports, it said that a man in Singapore was fined $12,800 for illegally keeping 92 tarantulas in his home and trying to smuggle six more—stuffed in plastic containers in the back seat of his car—into Singapore from Malaysia.

The report said that many nations ban or require special permits for the export of tarantulas but with growing commercial interest in exotic animals, more people traveling to areas that have tarantulas. In addition, it read, greater awareness through social media has fueled the illegal trade as well.

Use of Tarantulas in Traditional Medicine

In 2016, in a conference paper titled “The use of tarantulas in traditional medicine on three continents”, writers Yann Hénaut, Sévérin Tchibozo and Salima Machkour-M’Rabet stated that spiders are used in traditional medicine on all continents; however the use of tarantulas in traditional medicine has been reported on only two continents; in America and in Asia.

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In the state of Chiapas, the scholars said, the Tzeltal Maya ethnic group use tarantulas as a cure for tumors, adding that the spiders are induced to bite the affected area. Furthermore, they said, the Chol ethnic group uses the tarantula Brachypelma vagans for people who present an illness called tarantula wind that consists of asthma, chest pain, and coughing.

In Brazil, the paper read, the “tooth” of a bird spider is used to treat an infection of the upper dermis; the fangs are also recommended for the treatment of toothache. In Brazil, people suffering from asthma, drink tea with bird-spider toasted powder.

In Cambodia, it said, tarantulas of the genus Haplopelma are used for several medical conditions, including the Maya people who use for bathing eyes which improves sight.

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In southern Mali, Africa, the scholars observed people from the Senufo population using tarantulas as a traditional medicine to cure stomach illness. The tarantula identified as from the Phoneyusa genus is fried with salt and then consumed.