Nobody likes going to the airport. Sure, the idea of taking a trip can be exciting, but waiting around in lines and going through security isn’t very exciting. A Canadian man understood the woes of the airport, but for a different reason. Ippolit Bodounov understood the high-security measures used in airports, but this didn’t stop him from trying to bring something home that he shouldn’t, and airport dogs sniff out the strangest creatures living in one man’s luggage.
Pearson International Airport
Ippolit had just come home from Russia. After being on a plane for half a day, he was thrilled to be back. He knew that he was carrying something that he wasn’t supposed to, and he was nervous. He knew that what he was smuggling was illegal, but he was sure that he had taken the proper precautions to protect his secret.
Ippolit was feeling a bit cocky about going through customs because he was sure that he wouldn’t get caught. He had packed and hidden his cargo correctly and was convinced that he would make it through customs without an issue. The one thing that he wasn’t counting on was a dog being there. All he could do was hope that it wouldn’t catch the scent of what he was carrying.
The Dog Caught On
When the dog got close to Ippolit’s bag, he started barking and going crazy. When the border patrol agents saw what was happening, they quickly grabbed the bag. When they opened the man’s carry-on bag, they found a smaller bag inside. Inside that bag was ten more small bags, each made of cloth and damp to the touch. They smelled the bags but detected nothing. They were sure that Ippolit was trying to bring drugs back to Canada.
When the agents opened the small bags, they didn’t find drugs. Instead, they found leeches. There were thousands of them. The agents arrested Ippolit right away, but they weren’t sure what the nature of his crime was. They had no idea why he was transporting leeches, and they didn’t know if it was illegal to import them. They decided that they needed some help from an expert.
The Royal Ontario Museum and the American Museum of Natural History
The agents reached out to the zoologists at the Royal Ontario Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. Using state-of-the-art technology, they would be able to analyze the leeches’ stomach content to determine what species they were and whether they were caught or bred. The leeches landed on the desk of Sebastian Kvist, the curator of invertebrate zoology. He identified the leeches as Hirudo verbena, which is a medicinal leech. He also discovered that this species of leech was an endangered species.
For centuries, these leeches have been harvested to cure many ailments ranging from male pattern baldness to severe diseases. The medicinal use of these leeches dates back to the 8th century. Later, bloodletting became the standard means of preventing infections and treating illness around the world. It was especially popular in Eastern Europe and the Americas. During the 19th century, it is believed that nearly 6 million leeches were used to draw 300,000 liters of blood in Paris alone.
$6 to $14 Each
Even though bloodletting is no longer done, there are still people willing to pay for these leeches. On the open market, the species that Ippolit smuggled in sell for between $6 and $14 each. Considering that he brought in over 5,000 leeches, he was looking at a payday of about $70,000. For an amateur smuggler, this was good money. Because he violated Canada’s zero-tolerance policy on the sale of exploited animals, he wasn’t going to see a dime of that money.
Ippolit was fined $15,000 for his crime. He was also banned from importing or exporting for one year. He was also prohibited from possessing animals that are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. He was lucky that he didn’t go to jail for his crime.
Had he been successful in bringing the leeches into Canada, it could have catastrophic ramifications for the environment. When people are done with the leeches, they need to dispose of them after, which they often do in a natural body of water. This can disrupt the natural balance of the ecosystem. Someone must be getting some of these leeches because a number of European leeches species have popped up in Canadian lakes as a result of the dumping. The border agents, and especially the dog, are heroes for stopping the leeches from getting into Canada and being sold.