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Those African Souvenirs Could Get You Arrested

Those African Souvenirs Could Get You Arrested

wildlife photography of 3 giraffes

Airport officers seized woman's "souvenirs" brought back from Kenya.

By Michelle Watson and Zoe Sottile, CNN

(CNN) -- US Customs and Border Protection officers seized zebra and giraffe bones from a woman at Washington's Dulles International Airport, the agency said in a news release.

The woman was traveling from Kenya and had kept the bones as souvenirs, according to the release.

Customs agriculture specialists discovered the bones after X-raying her baggage on November 10.

After the Fauquier County, Virginia, woman admitted the items were zebra and giraffe bones, officers detained the bones and referred them to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Fish and Wildlife Service determined possession of the bones violated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Endangered Species Act, and the Lacey Act, according to Friday's release. The woman was not criminally charged but the Fish and Wildlife Service ordered the seizure of the bones.

Kim Der-Yeghiayan, the acting area port director for Customs and Border Protection's Washington, DC, port area, said bringing in souvenirs like the giraffe and zebra bones may be illegal or bring disease into the country.

"I can appreciate travelers wanting to keep souvenirs of their vacations," said Der-Yeghiayan in the release.

"But those souvenirs could violate United States' or international law, or potentially expose our families, pets or our nation's agriculture industries to serious animal or plant diseases."

The release did not say how the woman had obtained the bones. Several zebra species and giraffe subspecies are native to Kenya. The plains zebra, one of two zebra species found in the country, is categorized as "near threatened" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, while the Grevy's zebra is "endangered." Kenya is also home to the reticulated giraffe (considered "endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), the Masai giraffe (considered "endangered"), and the Nubian giraffe (considered "critically endangered").

The Endangered Species Act generally bans the importation of endangered species, including animal parts and souvenirs, into the United States, with some exceptions, including antiques that are over 100 years old.

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Zoe Sottile, Cnn