ELEPHANTS, polar bears, lions and the even endangered species like the Bengal tiger were among the stuffed animals seized by the Guardia Civil in Valencia at the weekend.
Inside a warehouse, located in the Valencia town of Bétera, 1,090 stuffed specimens were found, including 198 large white elephant tusks. The haul, the largest ever uncovered in Spain and one of the largest in Europe, is estimated to have a value of more than 29 million Euros, although that figure could be higher.
The operation, carried out by the Nature Protection Team of the Valencia Civil Guard Command (Guardia Civil), began last November when agents became aware of a possible private collection of specimens in the Bétera area.
Continuing with the investigations, the agents located a property of more than 50,000 square metres, which contained a house and 2 warehouses, with 1,090 stuffed specimens inside. Of these specimens, 405 were animals that belonged to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Some of the animals are already extinct in the wild, such as the oryx dammah, or practically extinct, in the case of the addax and the Bengal tiger. In addition, animals with different levels of protection were found, such as the cheetah, leopard, lion, lynx, polar bear, snow leopard and the white rhinoceros. Also among the pieces found were 198 large elephant ivory tusks.
One person has been investigated for the offences of smuggling and another relating to the protection of flora and fauna.
In the next phase of the operation, officers will analyse all the documentation provided by the owner to justify the possession of the specimens.
According to reports on Cadena Ser radio, the pieces will be donated to a natural history museum thanks to the excellent quality of the taxidermist’s work.
The operation involved the joint work of inspectors and technical experts from the Technical Unit of the Head of the Nature Protection Service and members of the Legal Institute and Forensic Sciences, who, thanks to the Integrated Quality and Environmental Management and Control System, were able to identify the protected species.
EUROPOL also took part through the work of EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats) of which the Guardia Civil is a co-leader.
Proceedings have been passed onto Juzgado de Primera Instancia e Instrucción Número 2 in Liria (Court of First Instance and Instruction Number 2, Liria).