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Nearly 400 monkey skulls seized at Paris airport

Nearly 400 monkey skulls seized at Paris airport

Nearly 400 monkey skulls seized at Paris airport

Nearly 400 monkey skulls seized at Paris airport

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  • Customs authorities confiscated 392 packages containing monkey skulls.
  • The packages were shipped from Cameroon and were intended for recipients in the United States.
  • The skulls were likely intended for collectors and hunting clubs in the United States.

Customs authorities at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris announced on Thursday that they had confiscated nearly 400 skulls belonging to protected monkey species for seven months in 2022.

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These seizures involved 392 packages that were intercepted between May and December of that year, and the packages mainly contained primate skulls sourced from Cameroon, intended for recipients in the United States.

In addition to these, customs officials also confiscated numerous other packages containing skulls or bones from various species.

It’s important to note that none of the confiscated items had the necessary legal authorizations for the sale of protected species, as per customs authorities.

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“Trafficking in protected species is one of the most lucrative trades after drugs, weapons, and people trafficking,” airport customs chief Gilbert Beltran told reporters as he displayed hundreds of skulls, jaws, and horns from protected species.

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This “disturbing” enterprise generates an estimated annual revenue of 8 billion to 20 billion euros ($8.5 billion to $21.3 billion), as stated by Beltran.

According to news reports, it is likely that these skulls were intended for collectors and hunting clubs in the United States, where they are often presented as gifts or prizes.

Some of the intercepted packages also contained intact animals or forelimbs with hands.

Customs authorities first became aware of the trade in monkey skulls in May 2022 when they discovered seven skulls that had been shipped from Africa.

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Subsequently, they escalated their efforts and uncovered dozens more, primarily from the cercopithecoid family, which includes species such as macaques, baboons, and mandrills, as well as from chimpanzees.

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The primates are usually hunted down for meat, said Fabrice Gayet, a customs expert in animal trafficking. “The sale of the skulls is a follow-on business,” he said.

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Small primate skulls command prices ranging from 30 to 50 euros ($32 to $53) each, while larger primate skulls can fetch prices of 400 to 500 euros ($426 to $532) each.

Remarkably, chimpanzee skulls can reach a value of up to 1,000 euros ($1,065) each, according to his statement.

Additionally, there is a thriving trade in the remains of various other species, including otters, big cats, lizards, and birds of prey.

All of the confiscated skulls will be transferred to the Museum of Natural History located in Aix-en-Provence in the southern region of France for scientific assessment and evaluation.

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“I am stunned to think that our closest relatives, apes and great apes, are being decimated and rainforests robbed of their endangered biodiversity for a business that is as stupid as it is outrageous,” the museum’s ape expert Professor Sabrina Krief said.

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