Image: Dead Australian beetles
Ho  /  Reuters
These are among the dead beetles seized by Australian customs officials.
updated 4/10/2008 11:02:22 AM ET 2008-04-10T15:02:22

Two American men were arrested at an Australian airport and charged with trying to smuggle hundreds of dead beetles to the United States, customs officials said Thursday.

A 62-year-old from Naples, Fla., and a 63-year-old from Cambridge, Mass., will appear Friday in a court in the west coast city of Perth, the Australian Customs Service said in a statement.

They will be charged under environmental law with exporting a regulated Australian native species without a permit, the statement said.

The men, who cannot be identified for legal reasons before their first court appearance, each face fines of up to $93,000 and a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Customs officials allegedly found 1,300 native beetles, mostly tiger beetles, in glass vials of alcohol concealed in empty plastic yogurt containers in the men's luggage, the statement said.

It said the officials acted on a tip-off from the public when they stopped the men from boarding a flight to the United States.

Customs manager Richard Janeczko described wildlife trafficking as cruel, with smuggled creatures often killed deliberately or accidentally.

"Australian species are favored targets of wildlife smugglers," Janeczko said in the statement. "The bright colors and unique characteristics of Australian flora and fauna make them particularly attractive to overseas collectors."

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