Rare crocodiles and birds seized in Sharjah during foiled smuggling plot

Traffickers were trying to illegally import Siamese crocodiles and hornbill birds

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Sharjah has foiled an attempt to smuggle critically endangered crocodiles and birds into the country.

A group of traffickers were trying to illegally import eight aiamese crocodiles and nine birds from the rare hornbill family.

Sharjah's Environment and Protected Areas Authority and the police thwarted the attempt and the animals are now being taken care of, reported state news agency Wam.

The Siamese crocodile - mainly found in Asia - is a small to medium freshwater species and distinguished by a bony crest at the back of its head.

It is one of the world’s rarest reptiles and listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's "red list of threatened species".

The birds are also extremely rare. There are many different types of hornbill but one of those confiscated was the helmeted hornbill (rhinoplax vigil). It too is listed on the red list a result of extensive poaching for their casques - a helmet like structure on its head - which can fetch about $1,000 (Dh3,670) in China's black market. The casques are carved into delicate jewelry and ornaments and sold illegally.

The crocodiles and helmeted hornbill are also listed on the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. Cites is an international treaty that tries to protect endangered animals and plants from international trade.

Authorities in Sharjah did not name the smugglers but said they were from the Gulf. The group were slapped with fines running into tens of thousands of dirhams and had their travel documents confiscated.

The seizure comes as the UAE makes a sustained push to clamp down on illegal trafficking of wild animals.

In May it was announced that customs officials had been given anti-trafficking training to help improve smuggling detection rates.

The UAE in 2016 banning ownership of dangerous, wild or exotic animals except by licensed zoos, circuses, wildlife parks, breeding and research centres.