Five baby alligators belonging to Maine university student Yifan Sun began crawling around a taxi cab. Sun was charged for illegally possessing and transporting the animals.
On Tuesday, March 31st, five baby alligators belonging to a 20-year-old sociology student at the University of Maine’s Augusta campus, Yifan Sun from Shanghai, China, began crawling around a taxi cab. Cab driver, Frank Folsom, helped to round up the reptiles he was transporting for Sun, but at one point one latched onto the sleeve of his shirt and he shrieked, “He’s trying to eat me!”. At that point, he realized he needed to find a better means to transport the animals. Folsom said that learned of the reptile transport while Sun was in the cab and agreed to stop at a convenience store to purchase a plastic container to round up the reptiles for the remainder of the trip. He said he believed people at the store may have noticed the alligators and reported his passenger to the police. Police later confirmed that they had received an anonymous tip that Sun was carrying around the animals.
Augusta Officer Nicholas Sterling and Animal Control Officer Francois Roodman arrived at the bus station a few minutes before the taxi pulled in and charged Sun with importing or possessing wildlife without a permit for transporting the creatures. The state’s wildlife regulations do not allow alligators to be kept in the state. “These don’t belong in Maine,” Sterling told Sun, who doesn’t speak fluent English. “I know the movie Lake Placid says otherwise, but these don’t belong in Maine.”
Sun said he had received the reptiles almost two months prior from a friend who resides in Alabama. In exchange, Sun said shipped the friend a turtle, but he did not indicate how two conspired in transporting the gators to Maine.
The student lives in a house near campus, and confirmed he had been keeping the alligators inside his home, feeding them dog food and water. At first, Sun told game wardens who interviewed the student he was taking a bus to Waterville to show the alligators to his friend. However, he later recanted his story, stated that his friend is employed at the United Parcel Service and they had planned to ship the animals to Texas, in exchange for another reptile, a Tegu lizard.
The gators were taken to a regional office of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife in Sidney, where they will be staying for the time being, according to Cpl. John MacDonald, of the Maine Warden Service. It is unclear where they will go after their that, but they will be in a more controlled care environment.
MacDonald said in a statement there are several reasons the state restricts the types of wildlife Mainers can own or import. First and foremost, there is a concern regarding “public safety, which is the reason crocodiles, alligators, and most venomous snakes and lizards are restricted.” Other reasons include the fact that exotic pets can disrupt the state’s natural habitats if they escape and manage to live in the elements, and that the illegal sale and trade of these animals, as in Sun’s case, can hinder efforts to conserve and protect them. The animals may also be unnecessarily injured or killed during transport.