(CNN) – Seven people face charges in an elaborate plot to smuggle flying squirrels captured in Florida, officials said.
The animals are protected wildlife in the state.
Poachers set up as many as 10,000 traps to capture the squirrels, and as many as 3,600 of the squirrels were caught with the purpose of shipping them overseas as exotic pets, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which detailed the alleged scheme in a press release.
The illegal scheme netted hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the agency.
Officials said buyers would travel from South Korea to purchase the flying squirrels from a dealer, who claimed they were bred in captivity.
The animals are especially popular pets in Asia.
Rodney Crendell Knox, Kenneth Lee Roebuck, Donald Lee Harrod Jr., Vester Ray Taylor Jr., Jong Yun Baek and Ervin Woodyard Jr. were arrested and face various charges related to the scheme, according to the agency. An unidentified 7th suspect, listed by the agency as a fugitive, also faces charges.
Florida authorities said more arrests are expected.