Spanish police seize more than 1,000 stuffed animals, including endangered and extinct species

A taxidermy elephant, rhino and cheetah, as well as other animals, from the collection seized by Spanish police. (Image credit: Spanish Civil Guard)

Spanish police have seized more than 1,000 taxidermy animals that were part of a private collection worth around $32 million in what they have described as "one of the largest ever" illegal wildlife busts in Europe. Almost half of the specimens recovered are either listed as endangered or have already been declared extinct.

Officers from Spain's Civil Guard seized the collection o from a massive warehouse in the town of Bétera near Valencia in Eastern Spain, according to a statement released on April 10. 

In total, officials recovered 1,090 taxidermy specimens, including entire elephants, white rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, lions, crocodiles, tigers and a polar bear, as well as 198 elephant tusks. The team also found other items, including stools that appeared to be made from elephants' feet and chairs upholstered with crocodile skin, according to a video by ABC News

Related: Man caught at Mexican border allegedly had more than 50 reptiles stuffed into his clothing

The officials said 405 of the specimens belong to species that are illegal to trade internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The collection also included a scimitar oryx, which was declared extinct in 2000, and an addax, a type of antelope that is functionally extinct in the wild, which means there as so few left that it is almost a certainty they will eventually disappear.  

The collection is estimated to be worth around $31.6 million (29 million euros) on the black market, according to the statement. 

The interior of the warehouse, which is around 538,000 square feet (50,000 square meters), looks like a natural history museum in images; some of the walls are painted with vistas from some of the animals' natural habitats, and some specimens were housed in glass display cases. The warehouse also contained basic living quarters and two boats, according to the statement.

The owner of the property has been the target of a major international investigation since November 2021 but has not been arrested. However, he continues to be investigated for wildlife smuggling, according to the statement. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Harry Baker
Staff Writer

Harry is a U.K.-based staff writer at Live Science. He studied Marine Biology at the University of Exeter (Penryn campus) and after graduating started his own blog site "Marine Madness," which he continues to run with other ocean enthusiasts. He is also interested in evolution, climate change, robots, space exploration, environmental conservation and anything that's been fossilized. When not at work he can be found watching sci-fi films, playing old Pokemon games or running (probably slower than he'd like).