News Release: November 10, 2005

Posted on Nov 10, 2005 in 2005 News Releases, News-Releases

For Immediate Release: November 10, 2005 NR05-24


Passengers with information asked to call inspectors

HONOLULU – Evidence found on Monday’s Omni charter aircraft supports suspicion that someone was attempting to smuggle an illegal sugar glider into Honolulu from Las Vegas. A pouch and a package of animal food was found discarded in one of the aircraft’s lavatories by airline ground crews and turned over to inspectors from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) who are investigating the incident.

During Monday’s Omni Flight 108, a passenger caught the 10-inch-long animal, which was running loose in the cabin.  Sugar gliders, Petaurus breviceps, are strictly prohibited in Hawaii.

Passengers aboard the flight who may have information about the incident are urged to contact HDOA inspectors at 832-0566.  If requested, information provided will be kept confidential.

“Hawaii residents traveling out of state should always check with the Department of Agriculture prior to bringing back any animal,” said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “Many animals are illegal in Hawaii because they have the potential to cause harm to agriculture and the environment, and may pose health risks to animals and humans.

“As this latest incident demonstrates, exotic animals have a knack at escaping from captivity and the worst case scenario would be for these types of animals to become established and/or spread diseases,” added Kunimoto.

Sugar gliders are omnivores that feed on insects, nectar and the sap of eucalyptus and acacia trees, which include native koa.  Although they may look harmless, sugar gliders can damage trees by stripping off the bark to encourage sap production.  Should they become established, they may also compete with native species for insects.  Uninspected mammals may also carry parasites and other diseases not present in Hawaii, such as rabies and Lyme disease.

The sugar glider continues to be safeguarded at the Plant Quarantine Branch until arrangements can be made to ship it out of state.

Under Hawaii law, persons possessing illegal animals are subject to penalties, including fines of up to $200,000 and up to three years in jail.

Individuals with illegal pets are encouraged to voluntarily turn them in under the department’s Amnesty Program, which offers immunity from prosecution.  Anyone with information or knowledge of illegal animals in Hawaii is asked to call the department’s PEST HOTLINE at
586-PEST(7378) or the Plant Quarantine Branch at (808) 832-0566.

View a photo of the evidence found



For more information, contact:

Janelle Saneishi
Public Information Officer
Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Phone: (808) 973-9560
E-mail: [email protected]