Customs officers have seized 100,000 items included lions’ paws and gorilla  feet, elephant ivory and a snow leopard and a whole polar bear skin
Seized: Polar bear skin
Seized: Polar bear skin
Drug gangs are making a new fortune – by smuggling body parts of endangered  animals into Britain.

The sick trade is netting crime bosses £100 million a year, second only to  drug trafficking in profitability.

Customs officers have seized 80 tonnes of rare species parts in just three  years concealed in ship containers, vans, luggage and plane cargo.

The 100,000 items included lions’ paws and gorilla feet, elephant ivory and a  snow leopard and a whole polar bear skin.

Impounded rhino horn alone was worth over £1 million.

It can now can fetch £40,000 per kilo – more than diamonds or cocaine.

Nearly 3,400 live endangered animals have been discovered including drugged  baby leopards, chimpanzees, Indian Star tortoises and a cheetah.

Exotic pet owners and collectors are buying over the internet, ebay and  Facebook.

There is also a huge demand for Chinese ‘miracle cures’ in the UK which use  exotic animal body parts.

Interpol says the UK is now a major centre for wildlife crime which is worth £12 billion worldwide – making it the second biggest global blackmarket, behind  the illegal drug trade.

Two Tiger Cubs at the CU in London

Stuffed: Two tiger cubs
Heathrow airport and Felixstowe docks in Suffolk are the  main routes into Britain often via Belgium.

Parliament’s Environment Audit Committee named the war-torn Democratic  Republic of Congo in central Africa as a major sources of animal parts.

Our investigation found rebels were kidnapping villagers to work as slaves in  the animal trade.

Schoolboy Eric Tanzole told how fighters from the FDLR, a rebel group  fighting to “free” neighbouring Rwanda, forced him to become a child soldier and  then cut up two elephants and a gorilla.

The 10-year-old said: “They said I’d be killed if I did not help them.”

Eric, who later escaped, added: “I didn’t want to hurt the animals. I had to  cut off the gorilla’s feet.”

In other atrocities, four people were burned alive in a house and a girl hung  from a tree.

Rhino horn seized in UK

Valuable: Rhino horn seized in UK

 Victim Marc Ukello, 61, said: “They hacked at women holding babies with  machetes. They beat us and made us work as porters.”

FDLR leader Felix Mahoro boasted to the Mirror: “We can make £40,000 from an  elephant. We control the forests and kill anyone who gets in our way.”

The United Nations says another notorious rebel group, the Lords Resistance  Army is also killing animals for parts.

The UN say 30,000 elephants are butchered every year.

The trade is funding wars with al-Qaeda backing gangs who have killed 700  rhinos.

But the law is catching up with some.

Seized Ivory at Heathrow


Black market: Ivory brought into Heathrow

 Graham Pitchforth, 61, and wife Norah, 68 from Wakefield, West Yorks were  given five-month suspended sentences in 2010 for importing a dead lion cub, sea  otter, monkey and flying foxes.

They sold them on eBay making £2,400 profit.

In 2011, police raided a ‘zoo of death’ in St Helens, Merseyside finding a  stuffed cobra, black bear, baboon skins and two stuffed Bengal tigers. A  45-year-old man was arrested and bailed.

Eight British zoos, auction houses and museums have been robbed.

Detectives recently received tip-offs that poachers were planning to shoot  rhinos at wildlife parks in Kent to steal their £110,000 horns.

Seven rhinos at Colchester Zoo in Essex have 24-hour guards.

Detective Inspector Nevin Hunter of the UK Wildlife Crime Unit said: “Gangs  have tried stealing old horns from stately homes. We’re worried a live rhino  could soon be killed in a zoo.”

This entry was posted in Apes, Bears, Cheetah, Elephants, Lions, Monkeys, Rhinos, Tigers, Wild Species and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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