French customs has said that they had seized almost 400 skulls from protected primate species in just seven months, in a sign of a rise in the lucrative trade.
Agents at the Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport had intercepted 392 posted packages between May and December last year, containing primate skulls mostly from Cameroon and destined for collectors in the United States.
They also seized hundreds more packages with skulls or bones from other species.
None of the packages seized included any legal authorizations for the sale of protected species, customs said.
“Trafficking in protected species is one of the most lucrative trades, after drugs, weapons and people trafficking,” airport customs chief Gilbert Beltran told reporters, displaying hundreds of skulls, jaws and horns from protected species.
This “sordid” business generates between eight and 20 billion euros ($8.5 billion – $21 billion) per year, he said.
Customs officials first became aware of the skull trade in May 2022, when they discovered seven skulls that had been posted from Africa.
They intensified their search and found dozens more, mostly from the cercopithecoid family that includes macaques, baboons and mandrills, and from chimpanzees.
The primates are usually hunted down for meat, said Fabrice Gayet, a customs expert in animal trafficking. “The sale of the skulls is a follow-on business,” he said.
The skulls of small primates fetch 30 to 50 euros each, larger ones 400-500 euros and chimpanzee skulls up to 1,000 euros, he said.
There is also a flourishing business in the remains of other species, including otters, felines, lizards and birds of prey.
The skulls will be handed over to the Museum of Natural History in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, for scientific evaluation.
Source : Hurriyet Daily News