There’s Illegal Giant Salamander Smuggling Happening in Arkansas

by Victoria Santiago
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A man in Arkansas has been illegally smuggling endangered animals into the U.S, including the Chinese giant salamander. Jackson Roe, 27, entered his guilty plea in the Eastern District of Arkansas on Wednesday, December 15th. His plea was for “importing and possessing illegally taken wildlife.” He currently faces up to five years in prison, and a fine of $250,000. His sentencing date is yet to be announced.

This comes after officials found two live giant salamanders in his home. They also found four dead salamanders and other animals. Between 2017-2019 he bought six giant salamanders.

This Isn’t Roe’s First Time Smuggling Endangered Animals

Roe’s encounters with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first started in 2015, per Yahoo. Authorities learned that someone in China was selling and importing animals to the states. After authorities went undercover, they learned that the seller was shipping to a lot of people in the U.S., Roe included. They then intercepted a package meant for Roe, which had live animals inside. The package was holding two live Chinese giant salamanders. They were in plastic containers with wet moss and no box holes for air. They’re endangered. The package didn’t include any sort of documents for the animals.

Roe’s guilty plea detailed how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got a search warrant for his parents’ home in August of 2017. In the house, they found two live turtles, a frozen turtle, and shipping materials. Authorities seized everything they found in the home. Afterward, they went to Roe’s home and interviewed him.

During the interview, he said that he owned many exotic and endangered species that had been smuggled into the country. Apparently, he bought the animals off of a Chinese seller on Facebook. Whenever he had live animals shipped to him from the seller, they were categorized as “plastic samples.” His plea agreement goes on to describe the animals that he bought.

Overall, he got seven packages. In these, he got six Chinese giant salamanders, one Vietnamese leaf turtle, one Indian roofed turtle, and one Chinese big-headed turtle. Once he got the animals, he stored them at his home as well as his parents’ home. Agents then seized animals and shipping materials from his home as well. Three salamanders and a Chinese big-headed turtle were recovered from the house.

What’s So Special About the Chinese Giant Salamander?

The giant salamander has been around since the dinosaurs. They’re absolutely prehistoric in size, too. On average, the giant salamander weighs 110 pounds and can grow up to 3-5 feet long. It’s the biggest amphibian alive today. Sadly, they’re critically endangered and expected to go extinct. Habitat loss, water pollution, and social trends are to blame. Of course, Jackson Roe knows the animals are in danger. Undoubtedly, that doesn’t bother him.