POLICE are quizzing 17 people in Spain after wild reptiles worth more than €150,000 were seized in the Netherlands.
Three Spanish men were held at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport as they waited to board a flight to Madrid with 200 Mexican snakes, lizards, and turtles, including many protected species, in their luggage.
A probe revealed the trio to be members of a dedicated wildlife trafficking ring, leading police to swoop on homes and warehouses in Madrid and Castellon, unearthing a further 600 animals.
Many of them were legal species that had been frozen alive, with licences issued to keep them used to sell on
Nine suspects have been remanded in custody and eight others questioned in connection with the plot, which reportedly saw wildlife from America, Asia, Africa and Oceania illegally smuggled to Spain for the black market pet trade.
Most of the species involved were endangered in the wild and highly desired by private collectors, with some fetching as much as €50,000 for a single individual.
The gang had a network of contacts around the world and used drug-trafficking-style mules to bring the animals to Europe, although some were traded ‘legally’ using forged documentation.
It comes after the Spanish government in February unveiled a series of measures designed to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade in a new ‘national plan of action.’