21 August 2014


A Museum of seized goods, what a great idea! Even greater, if among those goods one can find wildlife specimens which have been confiscated as a result of a court ruling on illegal wildlife trade.

The Border Force National Museum in Liverpool has done just that: picked up seized goods and the tools by which they were trafficked to show them to the public. The exhibition called

has in display a variety of specimens such as White Rhino horns which were smuggled in a sculpture or hornbill skulls which were traded over the internet.You could also find some of the most imaginative tools to hide goods such as a pair of ski boats or a drug suit.

The website of the exhibition contains much more information about trafficking in general, with some specific cases related to wildlife. In particular, one of the cases highlighted is the discovery of Lear's Macaws in the possession of a bird breeder back in 1998 who smuggled them all the way from Slovakia hidden in a petrol tank (or so have I been told). 

Lear's Macaw are amongst the most critically endangered birds, with a wild population of about 150 birds. Their natural habitat is limited to a small area in north East Brazil. They are listed in CITES Appendix I since 1987.

Below you will find a link to the piece of news (BBC) telling the whole story:

Even though the three Macaws were intended to be reintroduced in their natural environment in Brazil, it seems that they finally died.

This exhibition makes me think of the huge room that I recently visited at Madrid’s Airport, where Customs authorities store thousands of specimens and their parts which have been seized or confiscated.

I am positive Spain is not the only country which accumulates python skins, corals, ivory carvings, hairs of elephant tail, stuffed leopards and turtle shells. During our visit, I remember an officer of the CITES Management Authority stating that this room is hardly ever visited/used, and made a plea for the appropriate authorities to put it to a good educational use.

Understanding that the economic situation is not the most appropriate, I believe an itinerary exhibition of some of the items seized all over Europe, even if temporary, could positively contribute to raising awareness of the problem that illegal traffic represents for the survival of these iconic species (and for those that are less iconic, bien sûr). After all the EU is one of the major importers...

I am equally positive that with the right amount of will and knowledge, resources could be found at EU level to support a project in which the Customs authorities join their forces to make their “horror collections” available for such a cause.

The political will seems to be there for many countries and international organizations that wish to raise the profile. Many organisations such as Foundation GoodPlanet with the exhibition “Wild and Precious” or WildAid with its celebrity-based campaigns are currently doing so much to stop demand of endangered wildlife. 

Why not use those seized specimens for a good cause? 

I leave here my little contribution in case someone would like to pick it up.

Nice evening to everyone.

NOTE: the picture of the Lear’s Macaw is taken from www.ARKIVE.org solely for educational purposes. Rest of the pics, mine.

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