The head of a brown bear and a spitting cobra in a bottle are among some of the more unusual items seized in the last year at Irish airports, it was revealed today.
Customs officials are putting some of the rare finds on display in central Dublin for the next few weeks to highlight the illegal trade and importation of endangered species.
Shay Doyle, manager of Customs enforcement at Dublin Airport, said as people began travelling to more exotic places in recent times, the more exotic items were being brought home – often unlawfully.
Over the past few months officials have found a bobcat’s head, a crocodile-skin handbag, ivory and coral jewellery and the skin of a caracal or African lynx among holiday-makers’ souvenirs.
They were all confiscated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“We do appreciate that the general public may not realise what they are buying when abroad,” said Mr Doyle.
“So what we are trying to do is highlight that they should be aware when they go on holidays, especially with more people going to more exotic places.”
Customs officials seize any goods suspected of contravening the international convention and pass to experts, often in Dublin Zoo, to see if they match any endangered species.
Revenue said it wanted to warn people that they could be breaking the law if they bring in souvenirs made of rare plant or animal products – alive or dead - without the correct permits.
Prosecutions can be recommended if it is suspected a person was knowingly importing the banned goods.
Other trends in recent years, with the increasing diversity of Ireland’s ethnic community, have included the attempted importation of monkeys to be used as food and folk medicine, according to Mr Doyle.
Specimens seized by Customs are being exhibited by the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the ENFO building on Dublin’s Andrews Street until May 8.