customs warns of monkey skull trafficking

Mandrills, chimpanzees or galagos… In recent months, in Roissy, customs have seized nearly 400 primate skulls, which denounce a traffic that is as lucrative as it is morbid and worrying.

It is a sad collection that the Natural History Museum of Aix-en-Provence has just recovered. Customs have just entrusted him with a batch of several hundred primate skulls seized in recent months in Roissy. The species is well protected, but American collectors are passionate about these little monkey skulls. One more threat to an already declining species.

>> Exotic animals: a very lucrative trade

This time, no drugs or elephant tusks, but small white monkey skulls are placed on the long table at the Roissy customs office. Sabrina Krief, primatologist, knows them well: “We have the smallest primates, with galagos, whose skulls are a few centimeters long, up to the great ape… It’s really revolting, it leaves you speechless in fact.”

This type of seizure began a year and a half ago. In total, 400 skulls have been discovered in the past seven months in the cargo area. For Laeticia, principal customs controller, the last seizure dates back to last week. “It was a small package with a small label, with recipient and sender information. We opened the package, and among the bulk, we found skulls”she says.

Up to 1,000 euros for a skull

The packages were intended for UNITED STATES. Collecting primate skulls is a new fashion, explains Nicolas Vialle of the Natural History Museum of Aix-en-Provence. “It was mainly for hunting and shooting clubs, which can use them as rewards for competitions. And for several years, there has been a real resurgence of interest in cabinets of curiosities, so people are looking to have exotic pieces to put in these cabinets”, he notes.

The skulls seized in Roissy come from Cameroon. The monkeys are killed for the meat, but now, hunters are also approached for the skulls, assures Fabrice Gayet. It assists customs units for protected species: “We will explain to him that we are interested in the skulls for a few euros, which will mean a lot to him and will give him an additional reason to go and kill additional primates.”

For primatologist Sabrina Krief, these seizures are only the visible part of the iceberg, while this trafficking further threatens an already declining species. “If we take the species closest to us, the chimpanzee, in 50 years, 70% of chimpanzee populations have disappeared.” Customs estimates that a chimpanzee skull can cost 1,000 euros, a very small one around 50 euros.

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