A large-scale trafficking operation involving animal skulls from Africa has been exposed by French customs authorities, in France. Between May and December 2022, customs agents at Roissy Airport in Paris seized a total of 718 animal skulls, including 392 from protected primates. These specimens were discovered in postal parcels originating from the African continent and were intended for American collectors.
The investigation commenced on May 2, 2022, when customs officers at Roissy Airport intercepted seven primate skulls in postal parcels from Africa. This discovery marked only the beginning of a startling revelation. Over seven months, airport officials intercepted a staggering 718 animal skulls, nearly half of which belonged to protected primate species.
Among the seized specimens were members of the Cercopithecidae family, including skulls of red colobus monkeys from Cameroon, mandrills, and even chimpanzees. The majority of these skulls originated from Cameroon. Notably, these primates are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the red colobus monkey from Cameroon as “critically endangered.” The trade-in of such specimens requires specific permits and authorizations, which were conspicuously absent from the parcels inspected.
Fabrice Gayet, an expert in wildlife trafficking, asserts that the sale of these skulls represents an “opportunistic trafficking” because these primates are initially hunted for their meat. According to him, the resale prices of these skulls can reach up to 1,000 euros each, particularly for chimpanzee skulls. The confiscated skulls will now be sent to the Museum of Natural History in Aix-en-Provence for further study.
According to customs officials, these skulls were intended for American collectors and hunting associations based in North America.