French customs agents seize bush meat

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French customs agents are questioning nine people suspected of trying to illegally import several types of bush meat, including antelope, snake, crocodile and pangolin, a rare, scaly anteater.

During an operation from May 17 to May 26 customs officials at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport seized some 460 kilograms (1,012 pounds) of meat, 260 kilograms of which came from protected species, according to a government statement.

The French office responsible for monitoring environmental and public health threats (OCLAESP) said agents also confiscated 540 kilograms of fresh and smoked fish and 450 kilograms of fruit and vegetables.

Flesh from primates, elephants and desert rats was also seized.

Trafficking in exotic meat can spread serious illnesses, including Ebola, avian flu and foot and mouth disease as well as insects carrying vector-borne diseases, the official statement said.

On May 20, a man was sentenced by a Paris court to eight months in prison and hit with a 20,000 euro (28,000 dollars) fine for bringing bush meat into France.

The man was arrested at Charles de Gaulle while carrying 21 kilograms of porcupine and 15 kilograms of pangolin, whose meat is highly coveted, especially in some Asian communities.

© 2011 AFP

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