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It could be safely estimated that nearly 35,900 animals are smuggled into Iran every year.
It could be safely estimated that nearly 35,900 animals are smuggled into Iran every year.

Animal Trading Goes Off the Radar

Animal Trading Goes Off the Radar

Trading in animals and birds is lucrative for smugglers across the world and Iran is no exception.
Nowadays, keeping wild animals as pets is turning into a fad and typical pets such as dogs and cats no longer seem to satisfy some people’s craving for companionship. And smugglers are all the more keen to take advantage of this desire for newer and more exotic birds and animals in every possible way.
Moreover, the new regulation introduced by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration prohibiting people from bringing their pets into the country is expected to further boost the smuggling of exotic animals and birds as well as domestic ones.
According to the Headquarters to Combat Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Exchange’s Spokesman Qasem Khorshidi, the number of smuggled animals and birds confiscated in the last Iranian year (ended March 20, 2017) increased by 300% compared with the year before, the Persian daily Shahrvand reported.
“Last year, close to 11,500 animals and birds were confiscated, up from over 3,200 in the previous year. However, this figure only accounts for 32% of all the animals illegally traded into and out of the country,” he said.
So, the report claims that it could be safely estimated that nearly 35,900 animals are smuggled into Iran every year.
What makes wildlife trading highly tempting these days is the annual turnover of the business, which stands at $23 billion.
According to Khorshidi, the exotic wildlife market is thriving to the point where within only a few days, customers can get their hands on any kind of animal from lion and bear cubs to snakes, salamanders, squirrels, monkeys, crocodiles and eagles.
“Out of the 11,500 smuggled animals confiscated, close to 9,700 were birds such as eagles, northern goshawks, parrots and partridges. The rest were foxes, squirrels, turtles, gazelles, horses, snakes and alligators,” he said.

 Smuggling on Decline With Rise in Confiscations
However, Khorshidi did not consider the rise in wildlife confiscation as a sign of increasing smuggling of these animals and birds.
“Confiscations have increased and due to the special attention paid to the issue by responsible bodies, wildlife trade has declined in the country,” he said.
The official added that the confiscated wild birds and animals are handed to the Department of Environment while domestic ones are released into the protected areas or kept in zoos.
“Most of the wildlife trade in Iran heads out of the country’s western borders as well as southern coasts and borders; the main customers being littoral countries of the Persian Gulf,” he said.
The incoming smuggled animals enter via airports and the southern borders of Bushehr and Khuzestan provinces as well as West Azarbaijan from Turkey, Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia.
“Passengers bring their pets with them into the country, in which case certain procedures, including quarantines, needs to be gone through. But sometimes pets are transported in a way that makes it possible to circumvent these procedures and pass the customs gates unnoticed. In this case and if found, these would be considered smuggled animals,” he said.

 Heaven for Wildlife Smugglers
Payam Mohebbi, chairman of the board at Iran Veterinary Society, says in wildlife trading in Iran is not combated systematically and the country has turned into a “heaven” for smugglers.
Referring to a new regulation introduced by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration that forbids people from bringing their pets into the country, he said this would encourage the smuggling of exotic animals and birds as well as domestic ones.
“People smuggling dogs and cats into the country from now on due to the restrictions, will be tempted to try their hand at smuggling wildlife as well,” he said.
“A pet turns into a family member and you cannot tell people not to take them abroad or return them back into the country.”
Mohebbi believes the main body responsible is DOE, but unfortunately, there is all talk and no action.
“The police are not trained in preventing wildlife trading either. The Headquarters to Combat Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Exchange also seems to have other ‘priorities’ such as confiscating contraband cars and goods. Only certain groups are concerned about wildlife trade and this is not a matter of concern across the country.”

 

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