Brink of Extinction 

Home invaders keep invading, citizens fight blight, and a leopard-skin smuggler can't change his spots.

Who would have bought the four leopard skins that Moses Oladele Adeyemo smuggled into Oakland, or the leopard teeth that he hid in his underwear? "He claimed they were to be used for religious purposes," a representative of the US Department of Fish and Wildlife's law-enforcement division told Apprehension on condition of anonymity. "There are cults out there that believe cat parts are beneficial to their practices." In 2001, Adeyemo shipped a box to Oakland a few weeks ahead of his own arrival from Lagos, Nigeria, where according to the San Francisco Chronicle he heads a family of fourteen. Inside, customs inspectors found the skins. "When he came into the country and went to claim his package, that's when we got involved," said the Fish and Wildlife official, who believes Adeyemo is a UC Berkeley alum. This April, Adeyemo moved to dismiss his indictment based upon the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, calling leopard skins "an integral part of the Yoruba & Santería belief systems," according to court documents. He said he wasn't planning to sell them for profit, although court documents claims he was once "caught in a San Francisco Bay Area flea market ... with ... wall hangings that included leopard skins." As for Adeyemo's additional argument that "leopard populations have proven to be remarkably resilient," the court didn't buy it. "Evidence ... leads this Court to conclude that the northern African leopard is on the brink of extinction and that a religious exemption will only serve to assist in the hurried extinction of the leopards." Score one for animal rights! After pleading guilty to smuggling, Adeyemo was finally sentenced on August 1 to three months in a halfway house, three months of home confinement, and $10,000 in restitution to a nonprofit that benefits big cats, the Fish and Wildlife official said.

Leopards are protected under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates the import and export of hundreds of wild species, dead or alive. Leopard (and leopard-part) limits vary depending on country of origin and based on how many leopards inhabit each. Nigeria has only about a hundred. How did Adeyemo, sans import/export permits, get four skins out of Nigeria, a CITES member since 1975? "You know how corrupt foreign governments can be," the official said with a sigh. According to the US Department of Justice, Adeyemo also admitted in court that "he had concealed within an undergarment on his person numerous large cat teeth, including leopard teeth." Other CITES-protected species include pig-footed bandicoots, whale-headed storks, volcano rabbits, quetzals, and bustards. Don't say you weren't warned.

Change We Can't Believe In

Two plastic Target bags containing toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and the victim's wallet were swiped off a Vine Street sidewalk on August 5, according to Berkeley police reports. The victim described the thief as a white male wearing a straw hat, sandals, pants with cuffs rolled high, and a "black 'Obama' T-shirt with red-blue printing."

Bedtime

Abandoned couches and mattresses so proliferate on South Berkeley/North Oakland sidewalks that it's as if a huge invisible slumber party was underway. Illegal dumping, along with tagging and littering large or small, is a crime that lowers property values, obstructs egress, attracts vermin, and offends the eyes. Concerned local citizens have launched the new Fight Blight blog (WeFightBlight.blogspot.com). Along with posts on such projects as the City of Oakland's Abandoned Auto Detail and Berkeley's aggressive anti-graffiti policy are handy links to municipal hotlines and such outfits as the Oakland Blighted Properties Program.

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

A Laurel District resident tells his neighborhood-watch group: "I left my house to walk up to the Chinese BBQ restaurant on MacArthur between Taco Bell & Donut Time today to pick up lunch. I got home to my front door, unlocked it and was turning around to close the door, when there was suddenly a man upon me attempting to force his way into my house. We struggled and fortunately ... I was able to close and lock the door. As we were struggling, he pointed what appeared to be a weapon at me that was concealed under his t-shirt ... he probably wanted to scare me into backing off and letting him in. All the time, our home alarm was ringing and I was shouting for my dogs — but that did not deter him." After the door slammed in his face, the goateed assailant "took off running." A Dimond districter reports: "My neighbor was robbed at knife-point last night around midnight. He said that it was two white women, one skinny, the other huskier, and an african-american man. They knocked on his door and when he opened it they threatened him with a knife and tied him up with some rope. They then robbed his home." You know what they say: Don't open doors to strangers, especially at midnight.

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