Case Snapshot
Case ID: 6548
Classification: Unlawful Trade/Smuggling, Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: captive exotic
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Sunday, Jul 31, 2005

Disposition: Alleged

Abuser names unreleased

Police have raided an illegal safari park on a remote private estate in western Spain where huntsmen pursued exotic protected species including lions and tigers. The lions and tigers had apparently been bought clandestinely from a travelling circus by owners of the estate who organized the hunt. A lion and a tiger found alive were taken away yesterday by an animal protection society, and one tiger already dead was carried away for incineration.

Seven men were detained on charges of hunting endangered species, police said, and face three years in jail and an eight-year ban on hunting if found guilty.

Police swooped at the weekend on a vast private estate near Monterrubio de la Serena, a sparsely populated village in deepest Extremadura, a region bordering Portugal, where illegal shooting for sport - what they call "furtive hunting" - has long been rife. Lynxes and white wolves - protected species that it is illegal to hunt in Spain - were also said to have been offered as game for hunters prepared to pay enormous sums for the privilege. A local environmental campaigner said yesterday the huge expanse of individual private landholdings in the region, accessible only by miles of narrow dirt road, made it impossible for outsiders to know what goes on behind the fiercely guarded fences.

Huntsmen at the Sierra del Oro (Golden Hillside) estate were motivated less by the thrill of the chase than by the capture of an illicit trophy, since the endangered animals were kept in cages and vanquished while corralled in a covered enclosure. The hunter carried off the head and pelt, but the creature's body was buried in a pit. Villagers spoke of a ditch filled with bones of wolves, a protected species hunted only when it threatens cattle. Remote, rural Extremadura has been a favourite hunting region since Roman times, and Spain's hunting season reaches its peak in this week peppered with public holidays. One website advertises a day's hunt for 540 euros. Game on offer includes stag, wild boar, partridge, rabbit, hare and thrush. No mention of wolves, lynxes, lions or tigers.

The going rate for illegally hunting a white wolf - a creature much in demand among illegal hunters throughout Europe, is said to be 24,000 euros. No one consulted yesterday put a price on the head of a lion or tiger, but ventured it would be "much more".


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