(Reuters) – Police in Spain have seized one of the largest discoveries of taxidermy animals in Europe as they investigate potential smuggling, after a giant warehouse in Valencia was found to contain stuffed animals including rhinos, polar bears and elephants.
The Guardia Civil discovered over 1,000 specimens in a 50,000 square meter (538,000 square foot) industrial warehouse in Betera, Valencia on Wednesday, it said in a statement on Sunday.
The haul of stuffed animals included over 400 protected species, including some that are extinct, such as the scimitar oryx, or severely threatened, such as the Bengal tiger. Others included lions, leopards, cheetahs and lynx.
The warehouse owner is under investigation for smuggling and crimes against flora and fauna, police said. He has not been arrested.
Investigators estimate the stuffed animals are worth 29 million euros ($32 million).
The discovery was the culmination of an investigation by Valencia police’s Nature Protection Team, which began in November 2021 when agents became aware of a possible private collection in Betera.