Department of Agriculture investigating seized Survivor Gabon artifacts; others are on eBay

A container with artifacts from Survivor Gabon, including an endangered mandrill’s skull and hides of endangered civets, was seized in Texas this week, and now the Department of Agriculture is investigating.

The seizure “of the freight container by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on Nov. 18 has spurred a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation that could result in fines for the television network,” the Houston Chronicle reports. Besides the skull and hides, there were insects, “termites and a weevil-like insect called proeces depressis,” in addition to “cowrie shells, which are used for divination in some African religions, assorted feathers containing blood and flesh fragments, a wooden statue and ceremonial masks.”

A customs spokesperson said some artifacts were sent back to Gabon, while the rest were fumigated and held. The paper also reports that there’s a “possibility that the artifacts harbored microbes that could cause Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or other serious human diseases.”

Uh, I’m not a scientist, but what about all the people who came back to the U.S. from Gabon, particularly the ones who lived in the wilderness for 39 days, but also, say, journalists who visited for a week? If those microbes can live on artifacts, might they not live on humans? Maybe that’s why the AirFrance flight attendants sprayed the cabin with a cloud of allegedly harmless bug spray before we took off (seriously).

Meanwhile, non-seized Survivor Gabon artifacts are currently being auctioned for charity. Everything from puzzles to Tribal Council stumps to canteens to torches are for sale on eBay, with proceeds going to Jeff Probst’s Serpentine Project charity via The Alliance for Children’s Rights.

Also up for auction is the previously announced Survivor 19 set visit, which ends Christmas Eve and is currently going for $6,100, airfare, hotel, and expenses not included. Apparently, the winner will pay their way just like the media. Microbes are free.

Reality-show props spur drama [Houston Chronicle]
Survivor Gabon Charity Auction [eBay]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.