Illegal cow skins, insects from Nigeria stopped by Border Patrol agents in Virginia

5 mins read


STERLING, Virginia – Threats to our nation’s agricultural industries can take many forms. From the deliberate act of agro-terrorism, to the hitchhiking of invasive insect species, to the unintended act posed by travelers who pack prohibited cultural food products in their baggage, the introduction of invasive insects, or plant and animal diseases can severely impact our nation’s economic security.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at Washington Dulles International Airport must remain steadfast at intercepting all potential threats, such as the recent discovery of a combined 110 pounds of cow skins and dried beef in baggage from Nigeria and Cameroon, respectively.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), cow skins and dried beef potentially carry highly contagious or deadly animal diseases, such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Foot and Mouth Disease, that could threaten our nation’s cattle and livestock industries. That is why it remains prohibited to import unpermitted meat products from continents that have experienced animal disease.

The Nigerian and Cameroon travelers arrived at Dulles Airport on September 7 on a flight from Ethiopia and were separately referred to secondary baggage examinations.

The passenger from Nigeria initially declared that she possessed no agriculture products, but when given another opportunity amended her declaration to include cow skins. During her baggage exam, CBP agriculture specialists discovered 66 pounds of cow skins and a little more than two pounds of wood bark. A closer inspection of the wood bark revealed a live insect larva.

The passenger from Cameroon declared that he was only carrying dried eru, a green leafy African vegetable; however, an x-ray detected anomalies in his baggage. Agriculture specialists inspected his baggage and discovered 44 pounds of dried beef, more than four pounds of wood bark, and soursop leaves, a plant alleged to have healing properties in Africa. Additionally, agriculture specialists discovered numerous insects and potential plant disease.

CBP submitted the insect specimens and plant disease to an entomologist and a pathologist, respectively, from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for identification. That final identification is pending.

CBP seized the prohibited products and released both travelers, who were destined to addresses in Maryland. CBP incinerated the prohibited animal products.

“These interceptions illustrate the very real threat that Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists combat every day in order to protect our nation’s natural resources and economic security, and they meet that challenge with extraordinary commitment and vigilance,” said John Jurgutis, Acting Area Port Director for the Area Port of Washington, D.C.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection, inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States.

During a typical day last year, CBP agriculture specialists across the nation seized 3,091 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 250 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry. Learn more about what CBP accomplished during “A Typical Day” in 2020.

CBP’s border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations. CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.

Please visit CBP Ports of Entry to learn more about how CBP’s Office of Field Operations secures our nation’s borders. Learn more about CBP at

Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore and on Instagram at @dfobaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.