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American curator denies that scorpions and spiders are being smuggled from Istanbul

  • By Rachel Looker and Max Matza
  • BBC news

Image source, Lorenzo Prendini

Image caption, Lorenzo Prendini (left) submitted a photo of himself with, according to him, two police officers at Istanbul airport

A curator from the American Museum of Natural History has been arrested at Istanbul airport on suspicion of smuggling spiders and scorpions.

Lorenzo Prendini reportedly had 88 bottles of liquids and around 1,500 dead scorpions, spiders and tarantulas in his luggage.

Mr Prendini told the BBC airport officials had “completely ignored” his government permits, which he said allowed him to bring the samples from Turkey.

The specimens came from Turkey.

Turkish media reported that Mr Prendini was detained by police at the airport on suspicion of smuggling.

In an email to the BBC on Monday, the curator said he had appeared before a Turkish judge and was released without charge after spending a night in jail.

He said police had ignored permits that allowed him to conduct research in collaboration with Turkish scientists.

Image source, Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress/Getty Images

“The police completely ignored this and relied on the testimony of an ‘expert’ who has a conflict of interest with my associates… and whose scientific research is highly questionable,” he said.

“The police have completely violated due process and it seems they want to find me guilty in the court of public opinion,” he continued.

State media Anadolu reported that the DNA of the species in Mr Prendini’s possession could be used to synthesize expensive drugs.

Mr. Prendini is the curator of the spider, scorpion, centipede and millipede collections at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, according to the museum’s website.

The South African native has traveled to more than 30 countries to conduct his research, according to the profile.

In a 2012 video profile on the museum’s website, Mr. Prendini lists a number of close calls he encountered during his fieldwork, including being shot at by police in Puerto Rico and interactions with lions and leopards.