Seattle — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists seized a shipment of yak skulls on April 30, 2012 at SeaTac International Airport.
While sniffing passenger baggage from a flight arriving from Japan, CBP agriculture detector canine “Woody” alerted to a large duffle bag. Canines trained to detect agriculture items are an integral part of the agriculture inspection program. Beagles, like Woody, and breeds such as Labradors are selected for use by CBP because of their strong sense of smell and their gentle nature with people. Their keen ability to sniff out meats, fruits, and other prohibited agriculture items without the need to open luggage reduces passenger delays while ensuring that food and agriculture items that could harbor exotic plant pests and foreign animal diseases are detected.
Upon inspection of the bag alerted to by Woody, four yak skulls were discovered. The yak, Bos grunniens, is a large long-haired wild or domesticated ox native to Tibet and adjacent high elevation areas of central Asia. The owner of the duffle bag stated that he had found two of the skulls while hiking in Tibet and purchased the other two in a nearby village store. The two skulls found while hiking still had dried hide and flesh attached. The skulls were seized and ultimately destroyed to prevent the introduction of animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease into the United States.
According to USDA, foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine that has been eradicated in the United States since 1929. This disease causes the infected animals to have fevers and blister-like lesions over its body, resulting in a severe loss in meat and milk production. Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe have spread quickly and resulted in the loss of millions of cattle and billions of dollars in economic loss. A foot-and-mouth outbreak in the United States could devastate the U.S. livestock industry with the potential for millions of livestock being destroyed.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of our Nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.