Curator Cleared of Charges After Transporting 1,500 Scorpions Out of Turkey

An American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) curator who was detained at the Istanbul Airport after allegedly attempting to carry scorpions and spiders out of Turkey has been exonerated and released. Lorenzo Prendini told Hyperallergic that he was cleared of all charges yesterday by a Turkish judge.

News of Perdini’s arrest broke on Monday, May 13, when Turkish state-run news outlet Anadolu reported that the curator had been arrested and faced smuggling charges after 88 tubes and 58 bags containing around 1,500 scorpions and spiders (including tarantulas) were found in his luggage.

Prendini told the Associated Press that he had Turkish government permits for the specimens, but that police ignored the documents and instead “relied on the testimony of an ‘expert’ who has a conflict of interest with my collaborators … and whose scientific research is highly questionable.” 

Prendini told Hyperallergic he could not comment further on why he carried the specimen in his luggage but said that AMNH would release a public statement in the coming days. The museum has not responded to an immediate request for comment.

News coverage of the arrest includes a video of Prendini going through security and gloved hands pulling plastic baggies of scorpions from a Tupperware-type container and a plastic tube. A circulating photograph shows the handcuffed curator being escorted by two police officers. 

When asked to provide a photo for this report, Prendini sent Hyperallergic a selfie with the two policemen. “We are good friends now,” the curator said.

Prendini primarily studies scorpions and works in AMNH’s Arachnida (spiders, ticks, and similar bugs) and Myriapoda (centipedes and millipedes) departments. He serves as principal investigator at the museum’s Institute for Comparative Genomics and teaches at the AMNH’s Richard Gilder Graduate School.

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Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art’s role in history, culture, and politics.
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