NewsWildlife Trafficking

The Spanish Civil Guard seizes 421 protected specimens in an operation against wildlife trafficking

The Nature Protection Service of the Civil Guard, in collaboration with the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITERD), within the framework of an operation on the illicit trafficking of wild species and protected woods, has proceeded to the seizure of 421 specimens of wild species valued at more than 500,000 euros and 107 m3 of teak wood from Myanmar worth more than one million euros whose import is currently prohibited in the EU.

In the more than 1,000 inspections and controls carried out in customs facilities, airports, ports, as well as in zoos, taxidermy establishments and antique shops, 178 administrative infractions have been detected, the majority related to the irregular possession and commercialization of wildlife. The majority of violations are due to the absence of permits, marking and other violations required by current regulations. Likewise, there are more than 40 violations for non-compliance with the EUTR Regulation, the main regulatory standard for timber trade in Europe.

Relevant actions

Among the most relevant actions, it is worth highlighting the seizure of 48 tons of heather in the town of Jimena de la Frontera (Cádiz) distributed in four warehouses. This species is protected by Andalusian regulations and the strains had been illegally extracted from the natural environment in order to be exported to Italy for the manufacture of smoking pipes and decorative elements.For its part, at the Toledo Command, 4 people related to 2 zoological centers for mammals, birds and reptiles were investigated. The defendants had 67 specimens for sale, including a snowy owl (Nyctea scandiaca), two blue-chinned macaws (Ara glaucogularis) and large cats, specifically three specimens of serval (Leptailurus serval) and three others of caracal (Caracal caracal).

Finally, it should be noted that a total of three people were investigated at the Malaga Command for an alleged crime against fauna for the illicit possession and breeding of protected species. The first of the authors had in his possession 10 specimens of the Moorish Tortoise (Testudo graeca) valued at 50,000 euros and a naturalized lion head (Phantera leo) valued at 2,000 euros, lacking documentation to support his legal possession. The other two individuals had put up for sale on the internet a green turtle shell (Chelonia mydas) and an ocelot skin (Leopardus pardalis). All specimens were seized and brought to justice.

The seized specimens have been transferred to rescue centers thanks to the support of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.

Interinstitutional collaboration and international projection

The Civil Guard has had the collaboration of the General Subdirectorate of Forests and Desertification and the General Subdirectorate of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity of the MITERD, in addition to the support of Interpol and the World Customs Organization to carry out joint inspections resulting in criminal violations and arrests in different parts of Spain. This operation is part of the LIFE SATEC project (Strategic Approach to Tackling Crimes Against the Environment) of the European Union, as well as the actions contained in the EMPACT Project (European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats) of EUROPOL, in relation to the fight against environmental crimes focused on the protection of wildlife and forest masses. As a result of these collaborations, agents from the Central Environmental Operational Unit of SEPRONA of the Civil Guard have been present at important reptile fairs at European level accompanied by police representatives from those countries.

Furthermore, during the phase intended for the inspection of protected woods, there was the collaboration of an agent from the Judicial Police of Costa Rica who participated in some of the inspections in the provinces of Valencia and Barcelona. In one of these inspections, teak wood from Burma was found that was immobilized.