Taxidermy haul seized as man arrested over illegal import

22 May 2015

National Crime Agency officers investigating the alleged importation of endangered animals have arrested a man and seized a haul of taxidermy animals, including monkey skulls and bones, reptiles, a tiger head and stuffed birds of prey in Devon.

The operation follows the seizure by Border Force of a chameleon preserved in formaldehyde at the Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre postal hub on 17 April.

The reptile, which had been shipped from the United States, was found to be a controlled species, meaning strict controls are in place to prevent illegal trade. 

NCA investigators, supported by specialist officers from Border Force, executed warrants at a residential address and business premises in Newton Abbot on the morning of Thursday 21 May, arresting a 40-year-old man at his home.

At the business address they seized a number of items, including primates, reptiles, birds of prey, ivory items and other material, which will now be taken away for further analysis.

Dawn Cartwright, from the NCA’s Border Policing Command, said:

“Unregulated imports or exports of rare species can have a devastating impact on their survival, which is why the law around moving them is so strict and we take potential breaches of that law so seriously.

“Working with Border Force and our law enforcement partners we will continue to target the international criminal trade in endangered species.”

The man, who was arrested on suspicion of evading restrictions contrary to the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and Control of Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997, was later bailed pending further enquiries until September.

CITES is the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, an international treaty to which the UK is a signatory. CITES means strict controls are put in place on the trade of animal and plant material covered by the treaty.

Border Force has a well established and highly regarded specialist CITES Team based at Heathrow who provide advice on import and export procedures and deal with any illegal CITES goods. They work closely with the NCA, National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and police, and provide expert advice on border operational issues.

Grant Miller, head of the Border Force CITES team, said:

"Border Force's specialist officers are world leaders in identifying and preventing the illegal trade in endangered animals and plant material.

"We are constantly working with partners in the National Crime Agency and the National Wildlife Crime Unit to stamp out this illicit trade.”

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