SPANISH authorities have dismantled two criminal gangs trafficking animals with the highest level of international protection and breeding them in Europe.
In a joint operation with EUROPOL and other organisations, the police seized more than 300 species of reptiles that came from four different continents, as well as weapons from the Second World War.
Altogether, the goods had a value of over €800,000, making it one of the most important busts of its kind on Spanish soil.
The traffickers used ‘mules’ to transport the eggs of creatures from their country of origin, usually in suitcases.
But the dirty business really turned on the use of falsified documents for getting round regulations established to prevent the trade in endangered species, as these enabled the traffickers to breed and sell the reptiles in the EU.
According to the press report, a network of vets then provided the breeders with documentation for ‘laundering’ the trafficked animals; that is, making their origin appear legal.
In total, the authorities detained 21 people connected with the capture, possession, trade and breeding of protected reptiles, which included turtles valued at €30,000.
Billions of euros are moved every year in the form of environmental crime, comparable to human trafficking and the drugs trade.
Sadly, the endangered status of some species not only provides them with international protection but also makes them a target for the black market.