U.S. museum curator allegedly tried to smuggle 1,500 dead spiders and scorpions out of Turkey

May 13, 2024
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ISTANBUL — A curator at the American Museum of Natural History was detained in Istanbul on Monday while allegedly attempting to smuggle spider and scorpion samples, Turkish media reported. The curator said he had permits from the government to conduct his research.

Lorenzo Prendini, an expert on arachnids at the New York-based museum, was held by police at Istanbul Airport while allegedly trying to take about 1,500 samples out of the country, news outlets reported.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Prendini was detained for allegedly attempting to smuggle species found in Turkey.

Bags containing scorpions and spiders displayed on a table during a press conference
Bags containing various scorpions and spiders from Turkey found in an alleged smuggling operation in Istanbul, on May 13, 2024. Bunyamin Celik / Anadolu via Getty Images

Video published by the Demiroren News Agency showed officers searching hand luggage and removing plastic bags that appeared to be packed with dead spiders and scorpions.

In emailed comments to The Associated Press, Prendini said the police had disregarded permits from the Turkish government to conduct his research in collaboration with Turkish scientists.

“The police completely ignored this and relied on the testimony of an ‘expert’ who has a conflict of interest with my collaborators … and whose scientific research is highly questionable,” he said.

“The police have completely violated due process and it appears they would like to find me guilty in the court of public opinion.”

The museum’s website lists Prendini as the curator of its spider, scorpion, centipede and millipede collections. It says his research into spiders and scorpions has taken him to more than 30 countries.

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