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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bullet ants seized by Chinese Customs !!

Paraponera is distributed throughout Central America and South America, commonly found in the wet neotropic eco-zone. These antscolonies are found in lowland areas, at elevations and many places. Paraponera is known as bullet ant, infamous for its painful sting.

A free flowing trade is good for the economy but unscrupulous elements exploit  this and  harm the national interests – smuggling and moving goods fraudulently. It is not only  loss of revenue for the exchequer but also  a threat to the security of the country.  It is common knowledge that all goods imported or exported out of India pass through the procedure of Customs for the purposes proper examination, appraisal, assessment and evaluation. This is done to check the legality of the trade as also for charging taxes as applicable. 

Gold has always been a symbol of  status and power. It is Gold, drugs, iphones and other costly items that are often smuggled across the border.  Inland, it could be rice and other commodities which are in short supply in one place. There are reports often that ration rice gets smuggled out of the State.  Sometime back, Customs Officials of Mangalore seized coffee powder as nearly 505g of gold was found in dust form and mixed with coffee powder.

Exotic animals too get smuggled – star tortoises are often seized.  Many a times, it is ivory, skin and parts of dead animals………….. perhaps this is more eerie, as it was Paraponera that was being smuggled !!

Paraponeraclavata commonly known as the bullet ant, named on account of its powerful and potent sting due to its venom.  It is colloquially - is hormigaveinticuatro ("24-hour ant"), referring to the full day of pain that follows being stung. Paraponeraclavata was first described by Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius, who named it Formica clavata in his 1775 publication Systemaentomologiae, based on a worker he collected.

MailOnline reports that Customs officials in Sichuan province were left scratching their heads in bemusement after finding hundreds of giant ants packed into parcels sent from Hamburg.Around 800 of the large insects were seized by staff at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport Customs last week, according to People's Daily Online.The black creepy crawlies, later identified as harvester and Paraponera ants, can grow up to 2cm in length and are known to reproduce rapidly, with the queen laying up to 2,000 eggs per day.

The ants were sent to Chengdu Airport, China, in tubes stuffed with cotton wool and chunks of melon.  On October 30, staff detected suspicious-looking test tube shapes in an express package sent from Germany whilst performing routine X-rays. Inside they discovered 400 of the ants packed in the tubes, along with cotton wool, metal coils and pieces of honeydew melon. After identifying details about the sender, customs officers were able to seize a second identical package on November 1 containing the remainder of the mystery insects.

Precisely why the packages were sent remains a mystery, and customs staff have launched an official investigation after the recipient failed to provide a valid live animal quarantine license.The exact quantity of ants discovered in the packages differs between sources, with both Shanghai Daily and China Daily reporting that the actual figure was over 1,000 insects. 

According to scientists, the offending bugs can carry disease and threaten local agriculture, forestry and possibly even human health. Chinese experts have spoken out about the risk to the country's ecology from the continued influx of non-native species and creatures since the 1990s.Chen Hai, head of the Sichuan quarantine bureau, said: "At least 400 alien species of animals, plants and microorganisms have invaded China. Of the globe's 100 most dangerous alien species, more than 50 have invaded China,"
In Central and South America, bullet ants are even kept as pets.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

5th Nov. 2015.

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