Miami ‘Art’ Taxidermist Imprisoned for Wildlife Smuggling

MIAMI, Florida, March 5, 2012 (ENS) – A Florida taxidermist was sentenced in federal court in Miami Friday to 20 months in prison for illegal trafficking in endangered and protected wildlife.

Enrique Gomez De Molina of Miami Beach was convicted of importing endangered wildlife from late 2009 through February 2011. Documents filed with the court show he imported the parts, skins and remains of species, including a king cobra, a pangolin, hornbills, birds of paradise, and the skulls of babirusa and orangutans.

At a studio in downtown Miami, De Molina would incorporate various parts and segments of the wildlife into taxidermy pieces, which he sold as art. He offered the pieces through galleries and on the Internet for prices ranging up to $80,000.

In December 2010, pieces constructed by De Molina were exhibited during Art Basel week at the Scope Art Fair in Miami, resulting in at least one sale and the subsequent illegal export of the piece to the Canada, federal officials said.

A “Frankenstein” creature made by Enrique Gomez De Molina (Photo courtesy U.S. Justice Department)

According to documents filed at trial, De Molina attempted to import wildlife species including skins of a Java kingfisher (Halcyon cyanoventris) and a collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris), one mounted lesser bird of paradise (Paradisaea minor), the skin of a juvenile hawk-eagle (Spizaetus sp.), the carcass remnant of a slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) and the carcass remnant of a lesser mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus), without proper declarations when imported into the United States and without the required permits.

Numerous shipments to De Molina involved contacts in Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Canada and China.

Despite the interception of two shipments in late 2009 that were forfeited by De Molina and abandoned, he continued to solicit protected wildlife from his suppliers via the Internet, and to select specific animals from photographs. The parts or carcasses of the wildlife he selected would then be shipped to him without the permits or declarations required by law.

In some cases, commercial transactions in endangered species, such as the slow loris, are not allowed at all.

Some of the endangered and protected wildlife he selected was alive at the time it was photographed, including a wooly stork, a slow loris, and a hornbill, and later sent to him dead.

“Mr. De Molina trafficked in highly endangered species in violation of the law, disguising commercial exploitation of endangered species as artwork,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today, Mr. De Molina has been held fully accountable for his illegal actions, which are prohibited by both U.S. and international law.”

De Molina was also sentenced to one year of supervised release to follow his prison term, a $6,000 fine and was ordered to forfeit all of the smuggled wildlife in his possession.

“This case is an excellent example of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s commitment to investigate and interdict the commercialization of protected wildlife species,” said Luis Santiago, special agent in Charge of the FWS Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Region. “The taxidermy work that Mr. De Molina considered artwork is nothing more than a shameful use of the world’s wildlife resources, by promoting the illegal take, and trafficking of protected species.”

De Molina’s so-called artworks are “bizarre ‘Frankenstein’ hybrids” said Crawford Allan, director of TRAFFIC North America, the regional office of the global wildlife traffic monitoring organization.

Allen said, “The Department of Justice and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are both to be congratulated for bringing this criminal to justice and for the severity of his sentence, which will send out a strong signal to others that trafficking in endangered species will not be tolerated.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.