MADRID – Criminals involved in smuggling endangered species from Latin America into Spain are using the same routes as drug traffickers, Spanish police told Efe.
Some drug traffickers have actually turned to the business of smuggling exotic animals because it is lucrative and less dangerous than the narcotics trade, Spanish Civil Guard Wildlife Protection Service Capt. Salvador Ortega said.
Spain is one of the main entry points used by animal smugglers from Latin America to penetrate the European market, Ortega said.
The trade in exotic species is “very lucrative” and continues growing, the police officer said.
Animal smugglers use “the same routes as the drug trade and some have traded their businesses for exotic species,” Ortega said.
A small egg can easily be smuggled across international borders, with the parrot that later hatches being sold for more than 15,000 euros (about $20,500), Ortega said.
Reptiles, amphibians, turtles – smuggled from Morocco – and parrots are the exotic animals most commonly illegally introduced into Spain, the police officer said.
The Civil Guard has also been targeting individuals dealing in purebred dogs, conducting annual inspections that have forced “many businesses to close and others to improve quite a bit,” Ortega said.
Dogs from “puppy mills,” large-scale commercial dog breeding operations, in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary are sold at the same price as canines from certified breeders but cost the seller only 30 or 40 euros ($40 or $55).
“Many of these animals die in pirate transport vehicles and are in bad health and younger than European regulations (three months and 21 days) allow,” Ortega said.
Operators of puppy mills keep the animals “for a very short time, saving on feeding and vaccinating the dogs,” the police officer said.