CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte store owner is now charged after Channel 9 looked into claims that she was selling perfume infused with dead hummingbirds.
Last week, Channel 9 confirmed North Carolina wildlife officers were investigating after pictures were posted on Facebook in an advertisement for the store Botanica La Reyna.
Concerned viewers turned to Eyewitness News after pictures, which some may consider graphic, were posted on Facebook in an advertisement. The chuparosa perfume, believed by some to bring love, was advertised for $45.
"Eww, don't nobody want to wear that," one Channel 9 viewer said.
With the help of a reporter from our sister station, Telemundo, Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster spoke to the shop's owner. She admitted the online listing was posted from her Facebook profile but claims her phone was stolen and someone else posted it. She believes it was done to bring her store bad publicity.
"If I would have sold them, I would be telling you, ‘I'm selling them.’ But I don't have them," business owner Delia Perez said.
She maintains she didn't sell anything illegal. However, she admitted she didn't know these types of products are illegal.
"All the Botanica stores sell that. OK? The provider came saying, 'This is what I have,' but we don't know that can be a crime. Now we know it," she said Tuesday.
"(It’s) not something we see every day," said Officer Sampson Parker with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
He told Foster officers raided the store and found the same perfume from the advertisement inside.
"From what we found, and the research we were able to do prior to going to the business, it looked like this has been going on for quite a while," Parker said.
"I don't know anybody that doesn't have a password on their phone,” said resident Peter Iskander.
He doesn’t believe what the owner said.
“No, of course not," Iskander said.
Perez earlier told Channel 9 and the officers that the only chuparosa hummingbird items she has are candles and perfumes that do not contain any animal parts. She said she has never had any birds, alive or dead, in the store before.
Perez was charged with possessing wildlife for sale and possessing wildlife for which there is no open season. She faces a fine up to $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail. Perez will face a judge on Sept. 19. The charges are misdemeanors. She could get away with the minimum fine, which is a total of $285 for the two charges.
While this is the first case we've heard in Charlotte, Channel 9 spoke with a representative for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and he said the agency has investigated for years where the dead birds are coming from, but they do not know for sure.
"No one really knows how extensive the hummingbird trafficking trade is," spokesperson for the southeast region Mark Davis said. "As one of my colleagues says, the answer may lie in Mexico and that is out of our jurisdiction."
Davis said the agency takes the hummingbird trafficking very seriously. It has federal officers in airports across the country, solely to intercept smuggled animals including hummingbirds.
State wildlife officers say if you see any product with a hummingbird or other wildlife animal for sale on social media or in any shops, report it to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
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