Zebra, wildebeest skulls intercepted at NZ border

A zebra in South Africa.
A zebra in South Africa.

A box of South African wild animal skulls, thought to include zebra and wildebeest, have been intercepted by New Zealand border authorities.

The cellophane-wrapped skulls were found to have maggots crawling through them, eating flesh remaining on the bones.

The interception was made by Auckland biosecurity staff. A Ministry for Primary Industries dog team detected the package at the International Mail Centre near Auckland Airport.

Once opened, the box revealed several wild animal skulls, thought to include zebra and wildebeest.

“There was clearly some flesh on the bones, as you could see maggots writhing beneath and on top of the cellophane wrapping,” said Aynsley Richards, the ministry’s Auckland team leader for border clearance services.

The intended recipient chose to pay to have the skulls treated with formalin and methyl bromide rather than have them destroyed or reshipped to another country.

“One thing for sure is they weren’t coming to New Zealand without treatment – the biosecurity risk to New Zealand’s animal product industries would have been too great,” Richards said.

The ministry is currently holding the skulls until they are identified by the Department of Conservation.

“We need to make sure they do not include any species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”

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