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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shipment of Tarantula - Marine Insurance ???

Marine is a term embracing many things relating to Sea or Ocean such as marine biology, ecology and geology.    For us, Insurers – Marine is the branch of insurance dealing with coverage for goods in transit from one place to another, not necessarily through the mode of Sea.  The subject matter would cover possibly everything from machineries, liquids, bulk cargo, automobiles, live animals and more.  BUT the movement has to be legal.  In many parts of the World, smuggling is booming and that includes trade in wildlife.

Looking at the annals of history, Mail delivery by utilising  animals has been in vogue from early history.  Communication and letters were sent to longer distances and perhaps the first to usher in was the pigeons.  Later horses, bullocks, and many other things were used.  In this exponential world,  the communication now is twitter, facebook, and even e mail is considered antiquate.  Snail mail is in someways derogatory reference to the delivery of letters. 
Preventing smuggling  and protecting  endangered species is Govt’s concern.   Ideally, all consignments coming into the land needs to be checked, and assessed at least to check that they are not contraband.  As I was enumerating about the Customs formalities in India and how not all the consignments get opened up for inspection, in US also a majority of wildlife shipments receive no physical inspection.  It is stated that the authorities are of the firm belief that illegal shipment would possibly escape detection at 50% odds.

Many a times, gold, narcotics and star fish are amongst the most smuggled items.  Arawanas, also known as golden dragons, are amongst those regularly smuggled commanding high price as they adorn private collections and are believed to be bearers of good luck. As it happens with all smuggled material, they are sold  at premium commanding high price with impunity, as there exists a steady grey market.  Often the bridge between the seller and buyer are marked by sleazy middlemen, who also make good money in the deal. 

In Los Angeles, a german tarantula dealer has been arrested on charges of illegally sending hundreds of  insects to the United States through the U.S. mail.   Sven Koppler, 37, was arrested at  Los Angeles, following  a nine-month investigation dubbed "Operation Spiderman”. He will  remain jailed until a bond hearing December 8, authorities said. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 17 and arraignment is December 20.

Koppler  is facing  one count of illegally importing wildlife into the United States.  He is accused of having failed to receive permits and not declaring the consignments as spiders.    Special agents and inspectors with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Postal Service  have been investigating  Koppler's shipments  since last March.

Of the more than 600 tarantulas under question, some were of the Brachypelma smithi species, commonly known as Mexican red-kneed tarantulas. This species is protected under an international treaty and can only be traded with special permits.  Koppler failed to declare to the Fish and Wildlife Service that he had shipped the tarantulas and that is why they are considered smuggled.  If  convicted, Koppler could be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison and fined $250,000,  according to news reports of various agencies.   This particular genus of spiders are protected and can only be traded  after obtaining permits.  It is stated that many were wrapped in coloured plastic straws and sent to US from Frankfurt, Germany.  There are reports that tarantulas were placed inside single package, wrapped inside small plastic tubes covered with coloured plastic straws. 
The tip was revealed in a routine search of an international package which had 300 live insects.  Agents intercepted a second one containing nearly 250 live ones. I t is widely reported that  subsequently  “Operation Spiderman” was set up in March to track down who was behind these strange eight-legged shipments. Posing as buyers, agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received five packages from Koppler containing hundreds of tarantulas, including the endangered Brachypelma.

US is a peculiar place and there is a society dedicated to education about tarantulas known as the  American Tarantula Society or ATS. Tarantulas have eight legs and two shorter leg-like appendages in front called the pedipalps. Tarantulas comprise a group of hairy and often very large arachnids belonging to the family Theraphosidae, of which approximately 900 species have been identified. The name 'tarantula' comes from the town of Taranto in Southern Italy and was originally used for an unrelated species of European wolf spider. Tarantulas are slow and deliberate movers, but accomplished nocturnal predators. Some genera of tarantulas hunt prey primarily in trees; others hunt on or near the ground. All tarantulas can produce silk.  Tarantulas mainly eat insects using ambush as their primary method of prey capture. The biggest tarantulas can kill animals as large as lizards, mice, and birds. Most tarantulas are harmless to humans, and some species are popular in the exotic pet trade.   It is stated that mature males are not good pets as they are short lived.

Just as we have our Postal Department in India, the  United States Postal Service (USPS), informally the US Post Office, is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1971   providing postal service in the United States.   There are many private package delivery services as well operating over there.   One can even send unusual packages and the designated Special handling service provides service for items like live poultry and bees.

SS Tarantula (SP-124) was a patrol boat in the United States Navy. She was named after the tarantula.  She was initially built as a motor yacht in 1912 and was acquired by US Navy in 1917 and assigned patrol during WW 1.  she operated along the coastal waters of Connecticut and sank off following collision with SS Frisia. 

Hope you enjoyed this post.  Do post your feedback of  send your feedback to

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. Thanks for the information! I would love to see a lot more updates from you because I am working on a lot of research now. Also, it's awesome to know that there are updates as this for people like me who are interested with Tarantula.
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