Two men have been arrested in Portland on charges of smuggling wildlife into the U.S. after allegedly using an online business to ship orangutan skulls and other endangered wildlife parts through the mail.
Federal agents arrested Eoin Ling Churn Yeng, 35, and Galvin Yeo Siang Ann, 33, on Friday afternoon when they arrived to meet with a business associate. Both men were identified as Malaysian nationals.
The two men allegedly co-owned an online business that regularly smuggled endangered wildlife into the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Justice. According to authorities, agents bought three orangutan skulls, five hornbill bird skulls, skulls from a langur monkey and wild pig known as a babirusa, as well as the rib a of a marine mammal called a Dugong. U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents also reviewed records indicating Ling and Yeo sold other wildlife items in the U.S.
The charges of illegally importing wildlife carry a maximum penalty 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Gary Young, special agent in charge for the regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office investigating Ling and Yeo, said online markets have made smuggling more visible but have also increased illegal trafficking. Young’s office has as staff of 18 to investigate wildlife trafficking in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
“Just about whatever you’d want you can probably find online on some site,” Young said. "It's easier to find, which sometimes makes it easier to investigate, but at the same time, because of the volume, you have to focus the few resources that we have on the most enhanced violators."
The investigation of Ling and Yeo began when a routine international package search uncovered part of a skull from a helmeted hornbill, a species protected under federal law and international treaty, bound for a residence in Forest Grove, Oregon.
The attorney representing Ling and Yeo did not immediately return a call for comment.