Does one of your neighbors have a beautiful narwhal tusk displayed in his living room for the whole world to see? Well, you should tell him to put it away, because that majestic tooth from the unicorn of the sea was, most likely, smuggled illegally from Canada.
Canadian and American authorities have busted a smuggling ring centered on narwhal tusks, the AP reports. And the strangest part about it is the Canadian couple who brought the tusks over the border seem to have been operating for a decade. They would buy the body parts of the rare whales legally in Canada, then smuggle them across one of the New Brunswick-to-Maine border stops and resell them for black-market prices in the U.S. The sale of narwhal tusks is forbidden under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species agreement in the U.S., but not in Canada because the beasts reside there. The couple was even using a trailer specially designed to smuggle tusks across the border undetected:
The indictment also details how the alleged smugglers used “a vehicle modified to conceal tusks” for shipment across the St. Croix River border into Maine, including “a utility trailer modified with a false bottom, zip ties, custom-made felt shipping sleeves, packing foam, plywood, metal strapping and screws and shipping labels.”
A narwhal tusk is expensive enough when sold legally, so you can understand the importance of trying not to get busted while taking them over the border. A single stuck can range from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the quality.
Smuggling strange but surprisingly valuable items across the border from Canada is almost a trend. The great Canadian maple syrup heist captured our attention at the end of last summer, if only because we didn't know you could steal $30 million worth of maple syrup. That, and it threatened our pancakes.
And this is just the latest in a long line of strange animal happenings north of the border. First it was that horse in a hotel, and who could forget that poor, holiday shopping Ikea monkey? There was a brief hullabaloo about an eagle, but that was fake. We started a "what's next" pool after the Ikea thing happened, but no one put money on a narwhal tusk smuggling ring. Everyone bet on a moose that plays hockey coming out of Canada next.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.