A box with five illegal animals is anonymously surrendered in Hilo
A box of exotic animals, all illegal aliens in Hawaii, was left on the counter of the Hilo office of the state Department of Agriculture on Wednesday.
The box contained two emperor scorpions, a 19-inch iguana, a bearded dragon lizard and a 22-inch albino corn snake, each alive and in its own container. It was found in the office at about 7 a.m.
Illegal animals that cannot be transported or owned by individuals in Hawaii include:
Alligators, bulbuls, coconut crabs, electric catfishes, ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, hermit crabs, land snails, lion fishes, lories, monk parakeets, piranhas, snakes, snapping turtles and toucans.
Source: State Department of Agriculture Web site: www.hawaiiag.org/hdoa/
"These animals should not be in Hawaii," said Domingo Cravalho Jr., chief inspector for the Agriculture Department.
Cravalho said it's disturbing that one individual had so many illegal animals, adding that he or she probably has a strong interest in exotic animals.
Under the state's amnesty program, anyone voluntarily turning in illegal animals will not be prosecuted.
Officials would not guess how many illegal animals are imported into Hawaii, but said online sales make it more difficult to regulate.
"You'd be surprised what you can see" online, Cravalho said.
Depending on the color of the animals, the value of the illegal animals vary. The albino corn snake can vary from $35 to $100 online, Cravalho said.
Agriculture officials say the animals pose a threat to Hawaii's environment and to the public because they have no natural predators or might be poisonous. Illegal animals also increase competition for food for native species and prey on native birds and their eggs.
"These can all become escape artists and could potentially impact our native species and are a public health threat," Cravalho said.
Possessing illegal animals can result in fines of $5,000 to $200,000. Attempting to breed an illegal animal is a class C felony punishable by a fine of $50,000 to $200,000 and three years in prison.
The snake, lizard and iguana were still juvenile and small. The corn snake, which can live for 23 years, can reach 6 feet in length; the iguana can grow to 6 feet; and the bearded dragon lizard can reach 2 feet.
Agriculture officials hope to ship some of the animals to new homes on the mainland and keep others at the Honolulu Zoo. A final option is to destroy animals in case homes cannot be found for them.
"It's not the animal's fault for being here," Cravalho said.
Anyone with information on illegal animals should call the state's pest hotline, which can be reached statewide at 643-PEST (7378).