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Man jailed for purchasing chimpanzee skull

By Mason White 12:44 PM December 12, 2014
The seized skulls 

By: Tanya Malhotra
A man was arrested, charged and convicted of possessing criminal property after purchasing a chimpanzee skull among other illegal items, prosecutors in the United Kingdom said.

Now, the man who purchased protected species on the Internet, including the skull of a chimpanzee, was sentenced to a total of 10 months in prison at the Croydon Crown Court.

The judge however, suspended the sentence for 18 months.

According to the police investigation, 52-year-old Peter Prineas of Poverest Road, Petts Wood, Oprington, purchased illegal animal parts including cheetah skin, numerous primate skulls, a brown bear claw and great white shark teeth, which are all protected under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (COTES) Regulations.

When the Metropolitan Police’s (Met) Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU) executed a search warrant at his home, they seized the cheetah skin, a drill skull, a leaf monkey skull, four chimpanzee skulls, a leopard’s skin, a lion claw, a killer whale tooth, a sperm whale tooth and other specimens protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The WCU began investigating after they found the cheetah skin being advertised for sale on an online auction site by a seller in Wales. The skin was subsequently bought by Prineas, and the WCU executed a search warrant at his home.

The animal parts were found in an upstairs study, except for the skull of a young chimpanzee, which Prineas had kept in the garage as it still smelled from having been killed and prepared.

The WCU established that Prineas had been in contact with an unknown seller online, asking for a male gorilla skull for his collection.

The seller said that he had a skull, but it still needed to be cleaned. Prineas requested to see before and after photos prior to the purchase.

Prineas pleaded guilty to six counts of evading any duty/prohibition/restriction/provision under Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, two counts of purchasing/offering to purchase/selling/keeping for sale a specimen of species listed in Annex A of COTES and one count of acquiring/using/possessing criminal property.

He was sentenced to 10 months in prison for each count, which will run concurrently.

The Wildlife Crime Unit will now use the recovered items to try and educate people on the legislation and the severe threat that the illegal trade in these types of specimens poses to endangered wildlife.