A Niagara Falls man who tried to bring a large number of live leeches in his carry-on luggage through Toronto’s Pearson airport has been fined $15,000 by the government of Canada.
In an Ontario court on Friday, Ippolit Bodounov pleaded guilty to violating the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) after a Canada Border Services guard discovered the leeches during a bag search at Pearson.
“The leeches were undeclared on import, and stored in ten moistened cloth bags, all within one reusable fabric grocery style bag,” Veronica Petrò, a Spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada told Global News.
Bodounov was aboard a flight bound from Russia and to Canada on October 18, 2018.
A curator of Invertebrate Zoology with the Royal Ontario Museum determined the species of leeches Bodounov had were prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which regulates the trade of endangered and threatened species of animals and plants from more than 180 countries.
Hirudo Verbana, a medicinal leech in which can be up to 20 cm in length, has two suckers with sharp teeth and are considered a drug according to Petrò as “they secrete a substance that is used for a therapeutic benefit.”
Further study of about 240 of the leeches, carried out by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, suggested that the leeches originated in the wild.
“The total number of Hirudo Verbana imported by the subject (Bodounov) was 4788,” said Petrò, “Medicinal leeches have a monetary value with an estimated resale value of $4 to $10 each; some sources have suggested as high as $20 each.”
Illegal trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth up to US$20 billion per year and threatens many of the world’s most treasured wildlife species according to Canada’s environment agency.
“Medicinal leeches are regulated by Health Canada under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations,” Petrò said, “Anyone intending to sell or distribute medicinal leeches in Canada is required to obtain market authorization from Health Canada.”
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