More than two dozen dead seahorses, two desiccated snakes and a pair of alligator heads were among the bizarre items that people unsuccessfully tried to smuggle into the country through airports and mail centres last year.
Customs also seized two wildcat teeth, a turtle shell, and 2kg of meat from a near-threatened species of antelope under legislation combatting international trade in endangered animals.
The consignment of 31 dead seahorses was discovered at the DHL centre in Shannon last July. The unusual marine animals are used to treat erectile dysfunction in Chinese medicine, as well as asthma, infertility and baldness.
A pair of dead snakes and two plastic bags full of meal worms from Angola were seized at Limerick Mail Centre in June 2019, while a small crocodile head from the UK was found at Athlone Mail Centre in January of this year.
A traveller from Namibia was stopped at Dublin Airport in April 2019 with a large walrus tusk, an ornamental ivory box, an ivory knife, and a statue of lions made from ivory.
Customs officers at Portlaoise Mail Centre intercepted an early Christmas present of two alligator heads from the USA in December 2019, as well as an animal skull from Canada last August.
Among the items seized at Dublin Airport was an “animal head” from Turkmenistan, a turtle shell from Nigeria, 280g of sturgeon caviar from Russia, and five blue-and-yellow feathers of a macaw parrot from Brazil.
There were three seizures of suspected coral totalling 3.6kg at the airport last year, which were being smuggled into the country from Myanmar and the Maldives.
Officials also seized 2kg of meat from a bay duiker – a near-threatened species of antelope – from Ethiopia.
Customs service made a total of 23 seizures under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) during 2019, and a further three seizures in the period to March 9 this year, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Revenue ensures that legislation in respect of such prohibitions and restrictions is complied with at points of entry to or exit from the State,” explained a spokesman.
“Revenue has anti-smuggling teams at all main ports and airports and at the main postal depots, who routinely profile imports and exports, and carry out X-ray examinations and physical examinations based on risk assessment, and with a focus on detention and seizure of smuggled and prohibited goods.”
The purported owners of CITES items that are seized by Customs have a right to appeal, after which disposal options are considered by Revenue in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
“Items may be retained, destroyed or given to another agency – for example Dublin Zoo or the Natural History Museum, as appropriate,” said the spokesman.