Florida law enforcement officials announced on Monday that seven people had been charged in the trafficking of an illegal exotic bird, commonly known as a “flying squirrel.”
Christine-Ann Aquino, 54, of Pinellas Park, Florida, and Amy Foley, 54, of Tampa, were charged with conspiracy to traffic a rare palm civet porcupine.
The poachers paid two to three times their salary for the protected birds, officials said. The exotic birds were sold as aquarium pets but are not native to this country. The flying squirrel porcupine is legal to own, but the palm civet porcupine is not, because of its size and appearance.
The poachers had five planes to fly the porcupines to various parts of the Southeast U.S. between December 2015 and May 2016, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The police were able to identify the poachers by matching the identifiers found on the aviaries of the birds they brought back to Pinellas Park and ultimately registered the flying squirrels with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials in both cases.
Aquino and Foley were taken into custody Monday, and later released on bond. After the poachers were released, they were reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.