U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a man trying to smuggle 52 reptiles at the San Diego border, the agency says.
The man, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, was hiding 43 horned lizards and nine snakes in small bags under his clothes as he tried to enter the United States from Mexico, the agency says. The incident took place around 3 a.m. on Feb. 25.
The driver was booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center and the live reptiles were placed in a "secure and safe area," the agency said. The animals will remain in quarantine since some of them are endangered.
Bringing creatures that aren't native to the U.S. over the border can hurt the economy. The agency says one pest could prompt millions of dollars in damages to U.S. agriculture.
In 2019, a wildlife trafficking crackdown coordinated by the World Customs Organization and Interpol resulted in the seizure of nearly 2,000 animals and plants in 109 countries.
Last week, border officers and an agricultural specialist identified a beetle inside an aircraft flying from Senegal to Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in Puerto Rico, the agency said.
The USDA identified the insect as Ammocleonus sp., commonly known as a snout beetle or true weevil. It was the first time the species had been intercepted.
CBP agricultural specialists "safeguard American agriculture" by stopping the plant pests and animal diseases that could harm native agricultural resources, the agency says.
"What appears to be a harmless insect can cause significant harm to our economic vitality," stated Gregory Alvarez, director of CBP Field Operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.