Police in Spain seized a private collection of more than 1,000 stuffed animals, over 400 of which were protected species. The massive collection, which included cheetahs, polar bears, and rhinoceros, were displayed in two large warehouses in Bétera, Spain. This is considered one of the largest discoveries of taxidermy animals in Europe, and the largest of protected stuffed specimens in Spain.
The owner of the collection is currently under investigation for smuggling and violating the protection of animals, according to a statement by Spain’s Civil Guard.
The police were tipped off about a possible taxidermy collection in Bétera, a small town north of the eastern coastal city of Valencia, in November 2021. After investigating, they were able to locate the industrial warehouses, which were around 50,000 square meters across, and found a total of 1,090 stuffed specimens. Out of the 1,090 animals, 405 are protected by the CITES convention on wildlife trade, an international treaty that aims to protect endangered plants and animals.
The collection also included a North African oryx, which was declared extinct in the year 2000, a group of addax, a critically endangered species of antelope from the Sahara desert, and the endangered Bengal tiger. Reports show that the private museum also displayed nearly 200 large ivory elephant tusks, as well as lions, snow leopards, and alligators. Overall, police estimate that the collection is worth over 29 million euros ($31.5 million).
The Civil Guard is currently looking over the documents provided by the owner of the collection to justify the possession of the stuffed animals. The CITES agreement requires official permits for the possession of specimens, whether dead or alive. The collection’s owner is said to be a wealthy businessman from Valencia who claims that he inherited the stuffed animals from his father, according to Las Provincias. He has not been arrested yet.
After seizing the collection, Spanish authorities are contemplating whether the collection can now be displayed at natural science museums in Spain, or donated to a non-profit organization for research purposes, Las Provincias reported.