The Civil Guard has presented on Tuesday the result of an operation against the illegal trafficking of wild species. It has seized a total of 200 pieces dissected in a ship in Alicante. Among the species seized, there are examples of African lion, white rhinoceros, bengal tiger, hippopotamus, African crocodile, African antelope and giraffe. The operation, called Taxideralia, was carried out between the first of May and October of last year. At the moment there are six accused.
The Seprona was aware of what was happening due to the detection of a large number of advertisements for the sale of animals on the Internet. The agents verified that they all corresponded to the same telephone number, registered in the province of Alicante, in Monóvar. The researchers contacted the owner of the phone interested in animals and made an appointment in a warehouse in an industrial estate of this town. Although the agents were considering the possibility that it was a taxidermy workshop, they found a construction company, and observed that in the two-storey, 200-square-meter warehouse there were some 60 pieces of specimens from Africa and the national territory, like roe deer, deer and cruis. The finding, the agents point out, is "exceptional" due to the large number of pieces that this person treasured.
As a result of the investigation of these pieces, the Civil Guard directed its investigations to a possible taxidermist who could have made the embalming, and whose workshop was located in a chalet in Mutxamiel (Alicante). They set up vigilance in the area, while research on the Internet and web tracking continued. Finally, the author was located, who carried out the activity without any type of professional accreditation or administrative license. Nor was it allowed to get rid of the organic parts that produced its activity, which were discharged directly into the sewerage network, with the consequent risk to public health. The Civil Guard does not have an estimate of the price that the pieces could reach in the market, but, for example, a leopard was offered for 8,000 euros.
The Civil Guard has reported the operation in a conference on illegal trafficking of species, held today in the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Spain is a country where there is a huge illegal traffic of wild species, because it functions as a dealer of commerce (legal and illegal). "We are a stone's throw from Africa," said Captain Esteban José de Diego. Data such as that 31% of the skins of reptiles seized worldwide between 2005-2014 had Spain as the final destination, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime of 2016, corroborate the magnitude of the problem. Although the figure that moves this black market is difficult to quantify, the United Nations program for the Environment (UNEP) and Interpol estimates that it can be at 90,000 million dollars per year. The Ministry of Ecological Transition does not have these data for Spain.
The activity is also booming. For example, in 2007, 13 rhinos were illegally killed, while in 2014 there were 1,200. In the case of the black rhinoceros, a critically endangered species, its populations have decreased from 100,000 in 1960 to 5,000 in 2016. In addition, the world population of white rhinoceros is estimated at 20,000 and Java only 63. Large numbers also indicate that 1.5 million live birds and 440,000 tons of medicinal plants are smuggled illegally every year and more than 100 tigers, 1,000 rhinoceroses, 30,000 elephants and some 100,000 pangolins are killed.