Poached Coral Finds New Purpose at Nova

$1 million in coral confiscated by U.S. Customs is now an educational tool

By Christina Hernandez
|  Tuesday, Aug 16, 2011  |  Updated 7:06 PM EDT
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Once illegally poached, a $1 million haul of stolen coral is now helping educate South Floridians.

Once illegally poached, a $1 million haul of stolen coral is now helping educate South Floridians.

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Once illegally poached, a $1 million haul of stolen coral is now helping educate South Floridians.

The coral, originally from the Solomon Islands near Australia, was delivered to Nova Southeastern University in Dania Beach by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The coral was confiscated thanks to the way its shippers identified the contents on labels.

"It was paperwork that doomed this shipment because they were labeled as an endangered species in Florida and the Caribbean," explained professor Charles Messing.

Three of the 25 boxes have been unpacked so far, and already Professor Charles Messing said he's found coral that takes decades to grow -- and even a rare one called "blue denim coral."

"We have no idea how many different species there are in here because many of them are difficult to distinguish," Messing said.

Messing said on the street, the coral, most commonly used as home decor, is valued at nearly one million dollars. But instead of decorating with all of the once-living sea life, Messing said he will study them.

"We can cut them up and examine how old they are," Messing said. "They have growth rings like a tree."

Now, more people can learn from the coral, which will be displayed at museums and used in schools in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

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