Antelope head among unusual seizures by customs officials

Items confiscated include walrus tusk, teeth of wild cat and ivory statue of lions

Oryxes at Dublin Zoo. An oryx head was among items seized by customs officials targeting smugglers at the country’s ports.

Oryxes at Dublin Zoo. An oryx head was among items seized by customs officials targeting smugglers at the country’s ports.


The head of an antelope from Turkmenistan is among a catalogue of unusual seizures by customs officials targeting smugglers at the country’s ports and airports this year.

The ivory tusk of a large walrus from Namibia, the teeth of a wild cat and a reptile, both from Malaysia, as well as coral from the Maldives and Myanmar were also confiscated in recent months, it has been revealed.

A knife, an ornamental box and a statue of lions – all made from ivory and from Namibia – were among other illegal imports seized since January.

Under international restrictions on the trade of ivory, pieces created after 1947 must have a certificate under the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

The convention also regulates the international trade of wild animals and plants to ensure their survival.

The antelope from Turkmenistan is known as an oryx. Some species have become extinct in the African and Arabian wilds in recent decades because of overhunting, among other factors. A scimitar-horned oryx was born in Dublin Zoo last year.

While Revenue routinely publicises its success in intercepting drugs, alcohol and cigarette smuggling, records on other less common seizures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

As well as exotic confiscations, there were weapons – including guns, tasers, machetes and samurai swords – ammunition, food and even car parts taken from travelling passengers since the start of last year, the files disclose.

Under Cites last year, officials seized a necklace from Nigeria made of hippopotamus ivory, 37 crocodile or alligator teeth from the United States, 89 dried insects from Cameroon, a white sea shell from Thailand and two boxes of bird nests from Malaysia.

The combined value of all items confiscated under the convention, all of which were made at Dublin Airport, was €21,710.


Also at the country’s largest airport since the start of last year, passengers were intercepted carrying 53 weapons – valued at €1,691 – as well as two clips of ammunition.

These included rifles, guns, stun guns, air guns, pistols, component parts for firearms, lasers, tasers, throwing stars, machetes, samurai and katana swords and many varieties of illegal knives, such as flick, stiletto and butterfly knives.

The items confiscated also included telescopic batons, noxious sprays and other martial arts weapons.

In addition, there were 245 separate medicines removed from passengers at Dublin Airport since the start of last year, valued at more than €30,000, as well as meat and food valued at about €3,000.

Revenue said it has anti-smuggling teams at all main ports and airports and at the main postal depots, who routinely profile imports and exports and carry out X-ray examinations and physical examinations based on risk assessment.

When items are seized under Cites, Revenue “makes appropriate disposal arrangements” in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, following a period of appeal.

“Items may be retained, destroyed or given to another agency, as appropriate,” a Revenue spokesman said.

“Of the items above, some are still pending, some have been destroyed and some have been given to the Department of Agriculture, Dublin Zoo or the Natural History Museum.”