7 boxes of mounted animals seized on their way to Philippines

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A shipment of mounted animals headed to the Philippines was seized July 23 at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Javier Larios tells KPCC. The items seized included wildebeest, zebra, baboon, gazelle, antelope, lynx mounts and more, from seven boxes, according to a Customs press release.

"We normally don’t see this type of shipment being exported. This is the first time I’ve seen in my 23-year history, all these type of animals," Larios said. "So it's not normal."

This is the largest of this type of shipment to be seized in the U.S., Larios said. They're worth an estimated $8,875 according to the Customs press release.

It's more common for protected animals to be found imported rather than exported from the United States, U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Mike Osborn tells KPCC.

The animals are regulated, so a declaration to the Fish and Wildlife Service was needed to export their remains, Larios said. Some of the animals are protected species, according to Larios.

"Our number one goal is to stop commercialization of endangered species," says Osborn.

Osborn explained what Fish and Wildlife sees as the problem with buying protected species.

"No, you didn’t kill it, but selling it, commercializing it, furthers the trade of the endangered species. If someone buys that, someone else [will just want to] kill another one," Osborn said. "So essentially, the more they buy, the more will die."

The man who bought the items is fully cooperating with the investigation, Larios said, from his home in the Philippines.

"It appears that he wasn't aware of all the requirements," Larios said. "In this circumstance we found that there are two kinds of people, those that violate the law knowingly and try to circumvent certain requirements, and those that really don’t know."

Larios said it was reasonable to believe the man didn't know, as he was in the United States for the first time. According to the Customs press release, "He said he was unaware of the export requirements and that that day in Texas was more like a 'seize the day' sort of moment."

The mounts were purchased in Texas, and Fish and Wildlife is investigating if the animals were lawfully obtained, Larios said.

"If no criminal activity is involved — we will seek forfeiture of these animals from the individual," said Fish and Wildlife's Osborn. "Once forfeited to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they will be donated to schools, museums, zoos, primarily for educational purposes."

This story has been updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that the animals were endangered rather than protected species. KPCC regrets the error.

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