American Museum Curator Detained in Istanbul for Alleged Wildlife Smuggling

A curator from the American Museum of Natural History was detained at Istanbul Airport on Monday on charges of attempting to illegally export approximately 1,500 samples of spiders and scorpions, according to Turkish media reports. Lorenzo Prendini, recognized as an arachnid specialist, was caught by authorities as he tried to transport the specimens, including endemic species, out of Turkey.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that during a search of Prendini’s hand luggage, officials discovered 88 bottles containing various liquids and about 1,500 arachnids, primarily scorpions and tarantulas native to the region. The seized specimens are believed to be valuable for their genetic material, which can be utilized in pharmaceutical manufacturing. According to experts, the venom from such creatures can fetch up to $10 million per liter.

Prendini, who serves as the curator of spider, scorpion, centipede, and millipede collections at the New York-based museum, has conducted research in over 30 countries. His work primarily focuses on the study and preservation of these species. The incident has drawn attention to the lucrative and illegal trade in exotic wildlife, an issue that continues to pose significant challenges globally.

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