$42 million wildlife collection raided by police: 'Shocking scale'

Threatened and extinct species have been discovered within a macabre 1000 piece taxidermy collection in Spain.

Police released details of the collection on Sunday (local time) after they raided a 50,000 square metre industrial warehouse in the port city of Valencia.

Estimates suggest the collection could be worth 29 million euros (A$42.3 million) and include more than 400 protected species.

Left - a man walking down a corridor surrounded by elephant tusks. Right - Taxidermy animals including a large elephant.
Spanish police have raided what is believed to be the country's largest collection of exotic wildlife taxidermy. Source: Reuters

Amongst the haul was the stuffed body of a scimitar-horned oryx which once roamed Northern Africa, but was declared extinct in the wild in 2000 due to hunting and habitat loss.

Call to end wildlife trade to stop 'suffering'

Lions, elephants, leopards and a rare bengal tiger were also found amongst the collection, with police now investigating links to smuggling and crimes against flora and fauna.

Vision supplied by Spain’s civil guard shows a long hallway lined with tusks and stools made of elephant feet.

Another room featured crocodile skin chairs placed around a board room table with big cat skins hanging from the wall.

Investigations began in November 2021, and no arrests have yet been made.

Ben Pearson from non-profit World Animal Protection told Yahoo News Australia a permanent ban on the entire wildlife trade is the only long-term solution to keeping animals in the wild and preventing suffering.

"This is another devastating example of wild animals being commodified and exploited for profit," he said.

"The shocking scale of this seizure highlights the enormous cruelty that wild animals experience as a result of the wildlife trade."

Exotic animals set to be auctioned in Victoria

The trade in exotic species is regulated by the internationally binding Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), although laws differ across jurisdictions.

In Australia, restricted species can be legally traded and possessed if they are considered to be antique.

This month, a large collection of exotic taxidermy animals is set to be auctioned in the Yarra Valley, one hour from Melbourne.

Auctioneer Gary Latham told Yahoo News Australia there is strong interest in exotic taxidermy species both locally and internationally.

Two images from the Yarra Valley action, including taxidermy African animals and a polar bear.
A large collection of antique taxidermy is set to be auctioned in Victoria. Facebook / Yarra Valley Auctions

Set to go under the hammer are 150 lots including a polar bear, a leopard, lions, a buffalo, turtles, and a number of mounted exotic heads.

The individual assets are believed to be antique, but are currently awaiting certification to ensure they comply with Commonwealth legislation.

Call for Australia's exotic species trade to be reformed

The sale of exotic species parts in Australia remains a contentious issue, with some animal welfare advocates wanting more stringent safeguards in place to ensure compliance with existing laws.

Speaking generally about the issue, Donalea Patman, from non-profit For the Love of Wildlife, told Yahoo News Australia that current regulations are "unfit for purpose".

She argues distinguishing genuine antique taxidermy animals from illegal products is difficult, and this allows the black market to flourish.

"It's obvious that (the trade) goes unregulated and lacks any kind of enforcement," she said.

Ms Patman said she is frustrated that since the Federal Government announced its intention to ban ivory sales across the country in 2019, no changes have been made to legislation.

"We haven't progressed anything. We are in an extinction crisis and yet we still allow the trade in critically endangered species," she said.

The author Michael Dahlstrom has completed contract video work for For the Love of Wildlife.

- with Reuters.

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