French customs officials have seized nearly 400 monkey skulls that were being smuggled from Cameroon to the United States via Paris. The skulls were discovered in two suitcases during a routine inspection at Charles de Gaulle airport on September 18, 2023.
The skulls belong to various species of primates, including chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons and macaques. Some of them had bullet holes or traces of blood, indicating that they were killed by poachers. The skulls are estimated to be worth around $200,000 on the black market.
According to the customs authorities detailed provided to media the skulls were likely destined for collectors and hunting clubs in the US, where they are reportedly given as gifts and prizes. The trade of primate skulls is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which aims to protect endangered animals from exploitation.
The smugglers, who have not been identified yet, face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.2 million if convicted. The customs officials said that this was the largest seizure of primate skulls in France in recent years, and that they would continue to work with international partners to combat wildlife trafficking.