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Moldy African animal skins, skulls, 22 pounds of snails intercepted en route to Philly

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials uncovered it all on its way from Sierra Leone to Philadelphia.

Skins and skulls seized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Skins and skulls seized by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.Read moreU.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Sure, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but you may be better off keeping all of them out of your airline baggage to Philly.

That’s the lesson that was learned the hard way at Dulles International Airport near Washington over Labor Day weekend, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials uncovered three unfinished moldy skins and two unfinished head skins from a bushbuck, genet, civet, and "other unknown animals,” alongside about 22 pounds of Giant African Land Snail shells on their way from Sierra Leone to Philadelphia.

A bushbuck is a species of African antelope, while genets and civets are catlike mammals. The unexpected contents were found in a shipment marked “African drums and clothes,” officials said. The animal heads were mounted on unprocessed wood carvings.

In making the announcement Thursday, federal officials said the skins and snail shells “violated numerous import requirements,” and ordered the shipment to be destroyed. The unfinished pelts, officials said, “pose a potentially serious animal disease threat to American livestock.”

“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists protect our nation’s agriculture and economy from a variety of potential threats every day, from the innocuous hotel fruit and airport sandwiches to the more serious unfinished animal pelts that may be a vector for economy-crippling animal diseases,” Casey Durst, director of field operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office, said in a statement.

While travelers are allowed to bring animals and their products from other countries into the United States, they must follow strict federal guidelines. It’s unclear whether those responsible for this load were aware of the limitations.

In Philadelphia on Thursday, Customs and Border Patrol officials also announced discovery of another dead animal unwelcome for international travel: a taxidermied, extremely rare red siskin finch.