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RAWALPINDI: Customs authorities foiled an attempt to smuggle two tarantulas into Pakistan and arrested a passenger (a cloth merchant) at Islamabad International Airport (IIA) on Sunday.

The suspect along with the spiders was handed over to the wildlife department for further legal proceeding.

According to the customs authorities, the seizure was made in the light of information that an attempt to smuggle spiders into Pakistan would be made.

Following the information, a customs team was constituted, headed by Superintendent Shaheen Ahmad.

The team intercepted a man during the checking out of passengers after their arrival by Emirates Airlines (flight EK-614) from Dubai early on Sunday. During scanning of his baggage, the customs staff recovered the two spiders.

The passenger, identified as Usman Khan, a resident of Peshawar, was taken into custody. Khan told the customs authorities that he had brought the spiders from China.

Superintendent Customs Shaheen Ahmad told Dawn that there had been information that some people were smuggling spiders into Pakistan from China.

Therefore, the customs authorities have become more vigilant especially about those coming from China via Dubai.

He said initially 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 recovery of the spiders, the man was detained as he could not produce any certificate from the wildlife department to bring the spiders into the country.

He said during investigation the suspect said he had brought the spiders for the first time for a hakeem in Peshawar.

The suspect said he had been paid Rs50,000 and travelling expenses for bringing the spiders. However, the price of one spider is said to be in hundreds of thousands.

Khan is a frequent traveler to China but the customs authorities did not reveal how many spiders he had smuggled into Pakistan before.

Spider’s venom is used for the treatment of different diseases, including cancer.

In some countries, spider can be used as food and cooked tarantula spiders are considered a delicacy in Cambodia and other countries.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2019