‘Icky Bloodsuckers': Philly Customs Agents Seize 300 Rare Leeches

About 300 Hirudo Medicinalis leeches, which are used in bloodletting treatments, were seized in Philadelphia in February

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Maybe it's best to let the folks at U.S. Customs and Border Protection describe a recent bust of "icky bloodsuckers" in Philadelphia:

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers came face to face with nine jars of slimy bloodsuckers recently in Philadelphia and closed the lid on these packaged prohibited parasites," a Wednesday news release from CBP said.

The plastic jars containing around 300 leeches arrived in six separate air cargo shipments from Bulgaria between Feb. 19 to Feb. 25, the CBP said. The slimy critters -- labeled "Hirudo Orientalis," a type of medicinal leech -- were bound for addresses in Connecticut, Florida and Illinois.

CBP officers were suspicious of the crawling contents, so they reached out to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspector who determined the leeches were actually Hirudo Medicinalis, another type of leech used in bloodletting treatments.

The CBP said that type of leech is listed as a protected species and can't be traded internationally, according to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulations.

Leeches in jars
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Some of the seized leeches in jars.

CBP turned the leeches over to federal wildlife agents.

“Customs and Border Protection officers and agriculture specialists often encounter unique and interesting things, like this jar full of icky bloodsuckers, while inspecting goods being imported to the United States,” Joseph Martella, CBP’s area port director in Philadelphia, said.

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