The Civil Guard arrests and investigates 23 members of a criminal network dedicated to the illegal trade in protected species

SEPRONA has seized more than 280 protected species

The volume of the business in the last five years would amount to more than 1,000,000 euros

Investigating crimes of money laundering, contraband, professional intrusion and fraud among others

The Civil Guard has dismantled a criminal group that was dedicated to the illicit trafficking of protected species which they exported to countries like Morocco. In addition, up to 20 fraud crimes have been clarified for individuals who acquired this type of animal online.

As part of the ORATRIX operation, carried out in three phases, 23 people related to the illegal trafficking of species have been arrested and investigated. The origin of the commercialization of these species has been located in the southern part of Spain.

The Civil Guard has seized more than 280 protected species among which there are macaws, parrots and cockatoos, in addition to abundant documentation and cash.

The documentation of these species was falsified and, in some cases, there was no record. The breeding of pairs was carried out in large aviaries. Agents also found an indoor plantation with more than 400 marijuana plants in one of the plots.

Modus Operandi

Those investigated, under cover of false documentation, raised pairs of species for years that they later tried to sell on the black market. This type of exotic species is in high demand and the existence of export routes from Spain to Morocco has been verified.

The collaboration of the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie has been essential to locate a transport route, which used the interior of the buses to hide and transport the birds. The main detainee used his job at a travel agency for these exports.

In Spain, in some cases, they used macaws and other species of lesser value and put them up for sale through the internet, swindling users who never received their birds or posing as buyers who never paid the money for the demanded species.

This illegal trade reported to detainees a turnover of more than 100,000 euros per year. In addition, the valuation of the seized birds reaches up to 550,000 euros.

Genetic identification of species

In the research, the genetic identification of the species and their parental filial relationship through DNA has been fundamental. As a result of these analyzes it has been verified whether the origin of the birds was legal or not. More than 250 samples have been taken and will be analyzed.

The geographical situation of Spain places the country as a gateway and intermediary to Europe and Asia for species whose origin are countries in South America.

The development of this type of action requires a fluid exchange of information, which allows knowing the traceability of the species in the countries of origin and destination to detect possible irregularities derived from their illegal obtaining.

However, the relevance of this operation lies in the finding of a contrary flow, discovering the existence of an illicit emerging market for this type of animal towards countries in North Africa.

It has had the support of EUROPOL in the operational analysis and in the strategic analysis of the documentation. As a result, the exit routes of these species to the rest of the member states and third countries have been verified and continue to be investigated.

Species trafficking

In recent years, environmental crime has become one of the most lucrative activities, moving billions of euros each year. In terms of organized crime, it constitutes, along with human trafficking and drug trafficking, one of the most important threats globally.

All kinds of species are trafficked (mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, plants …) and the strong demand in some markets has made many of them find themselves, today, in such a critical situation that it has led to authorities around the world to take measures to fight this loss of biodiversity.

The first actions were carried out by the Delegate Prosecutor for the Environment of Malaga. The judicial instruction has corresponded to the Court No. 10 of Malaga, and has had the participation of the Museum of Natural Sciences of Madrid and the FIEB Foundation (Foundation for Research in Ethology and Biodiversity).


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