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Photo: dcJohn

For some people, the temptation to travel with contraband is alluring.

FOR OTHERS, IT’S the temptation to buy contraband–and the promise of a high resale value–that draws them to forbidden objects.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service hopes both types of people will help fatten its bank account.

Every year, the US Fish & Wildlife Service seizes thousands of objects made of animal parts: ostrich skin boots, lizard trimmed watches and wallets, and weasel fur coats, to name just a few.

The number of seized items has become overwhelming; however, and with 1.5 million items in storage, the FWS is trying to clean house, selling 300,000 items online through Lone Star Auctions.

Though the agency would prefer not to have to make money by selling the very items it forbids others to traffic, FWS officials say there’s no better way to dispose of these objects. The last auction, held in 1999, netted the agency $500,000 in profits, all of which were directed toward wildlife conservation.

Some activists, though, are outraged by what they view as hypocrisy on the part of the FWS. One senior member of PETA had the following to say about the auction, as reported by The Wall Street Journal:

Ashley Byrne, a senior campaigner with the animal-rights group PETA… argues that the sale just stimulates demand for weasel coats and python-trimmed figurines. Instead, she says, the agency should donate the merchandise to PETA. She has laid in quite a store of fake blood to splash on the shiny green snakeskin shoes and the weathered leather jackets trimmed with fox fur. She would like to put the bloodied goods on display anywhere she can, next to video monitors rolling footage of “animals being skinned alive or bludgeoned to death.” The juxtaposition will make would-be shoppers queasy, Ms. Byrne promises. “As opposed,” she says, “to perpetuating the idea that it’s OK to turn an animal into a keychain.”

What do you think? Should the FWS sell these goods or dispose of them without making money? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • http://staceyjean@hotmail.com Stacey

    donate the items to PETA!! otherwise the organization is running a hypocritical campaign that can’t be taken seriously. PETA is correct in stating that by selling these items, you are only fostering demand for them. it’s a vicious cycle that will never end.

  • http://wildfornature.blogspot.com Carolyn – Bozeman, MT

    No. The items confiscated should not be sold. The appetite for these types of items is not healthy.
    Like the trade in endangered animals for bush meat as written about by Dr. Jane Goodall, it often seems that money is more important than the natural world and understanding our connections with it.
    I’ve written FWP before about some of their practices. I understand they are strapped for money as are other government agencies. The sale of contraband is not the answer.

  • somchai

    I’d think the only reason most of the items mentioned are against the law is because they were confiscated at a border, certainly fox and weasel are legaly trapped in the US. It is illegal to import any wildlife or wildlife product with certain qualifications. In general don’t bring anything that is or used to be alive, including plants and plant material.

    The US Fish and Wildlife service is well funded and the state divisions of wildlife with whom they work closely are extremely well funded. 10% of every firearm, amo or bow sold in the US goes to wildlife preservation, and it has been that way since half a centuy ago. Wildlife biologists have lots of opportunity for employment. The US has probably the best wildlife protection and restoration in the world bar none.

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