Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Japanese Man Who Smuggled Endangered Butterflies Sentenced To 21 Months in Federal Prison

April 16, 2007


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

A Japanese man who described himself to federal investigators as "the worlds most wanted butterfly smuggler" was sentenced today in federal court in Los Angeles to 21 months in prison for trafficking in rare butterfly species protected by U.S. and international law. Hisayoshi Kojima, 57, of Kyoto, Japan was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine, $7,656 in restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and $1,175 court assessment.

Service special agents began investigating Kojima in 2003 after an insect dealer in Texas told agents of Kojima's reputation within the trade as the worlds top smuggler of rare and protected butterflies. Investigators learned Kojimas smuggling network spanned the globe. He routinely produced for sale endangered butterflies from the South Pacific, Caribbean and Spain, including one pair of Queen Alexandras birdwings, an endangered species that is the largest butterfly in the world. Kojima sold the pair to an undercover agent for $8,500.

"He was able to produce butterflies for sale that are almost never seen in commercial trade, or even made available to university collections," said Special Agent Ed comer who led the three-year investigation. "During the last months of our investigation, Kojima offered to sell me a variety of species of endangered or protected butterfly that had a collective value of more than $294,000."

comer said Kojima was well aware of his reputation as a top smuggler, and once bragged to comer that hed been able to outsmart a federal agent who investigated him in 1999 for illegally collecting endangered butterflies from national parks in California, Nevada and Arizona. "During one of our undercover meetings, he told me he was the worlds most wanted butterfly smuggler," comer said.

Kojima was indicted by a grand jury and arrested in July 2006. He pleaded guilty in January to 17 criminal charges related to the sale and smuggling of butterfly species including five counts of illegally offering to sell endangered species, five counts of importing wildlife contrary to law, five counts of smuggling wildlife and two counts of illegally importing endangered species. All of the species involved in the case are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the federal Endangered Species Act.

Included in the list of rare butterflies Kojima offered for sale was the endangered Giant Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio homerus, the largest butterfly in the western hemisphere. The species is depicted on the $1,000 Jamaican banknote. Forty three specimens of rare butterfly were sold to undercover agents, including two Ornithoptera alexandrae; two Papilio chikae; six Papilio hospiton; three Ornithoptera paradesia; two Ornithoptera victoriae; two Ornithoptera meridionalis; three Bhutanitis lidderdalii; and 23 other species.

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