Federal customs officials at the Port of Los Angeles have seized about $9,000 worth of mounted and stuffed wildlife “hunting trophies” that lacked proper export permits.
The collection — including a bear skull and full-body mounts of a bobcat, a lynx with a bird and a baboon, all four of which are protected species — was on display Wednesday during a news conference at a Carson warehouse.
“This is the largest shipment of its kind in the port in over 30 years,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Section Chief Javier Larios said during the news conference.
Other specimens in the Port of Los Angeles shipment included deer, kudu and impala antlers and horns, and shoulder mounts of a goat and a zebra. Also among the 30 pieces were a wildebeest, an African antelope, African gazelle, two smallmouth bass and an alligator.
The items, packed in seven boxes as part of a consolidated shipment declared to be household goods, were confiscated July 23. “Animal heads” was written on one of the boxes.
Officials said consolidated shipments often get flagged because they are used by either first-time shippers or those who combine goods with other packages being exported.
They added that, while it is not uncommon for wildlife or wildlife products to be shipped into the U.S., it is unusual for them to be exported.
Customs and U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigators said at least some of the items were purchased from a liquidator in Texas by a 44-year-old man from the Philippines who was in the United States for the first time with his wife and two children on a family vacation. Some of the stuffed animals also may have been bought elsewhere in the U.S. He also visited Oregon and Nevada, among other states.
The family rented a minivan in Los Angeles for their tour of the western part of the United States. The shipment was headed to the Philippines.
The man told investigators that he had no plans of buying so much and had to rent a 14-foot U-Haul van to drive back to California. He said he was unaware of the export requirements and that his buying spree in Texas was “like a ‘seize the day' moment,” according to a Customs news release.
Officials said the man, who is now in his home country, is cooperating and is not believed to have been aware of the needed permits. If that proves to be the case, he will only lose his purchases and the money he spent. The items will probably be donated to zoos, universities or other schools for educational uses, officials said.
Fish and Wildlife officials are working to trace the items back to suppliers and sellers to determine whether any criminal activity might be involved.
The idea, they said, is to crack down on poaching and the commercialization of wildlife, especially those species that are protected or endangered.