Airport inspectors find 2,000 baboon noses

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Two thousand baboon noses have been found in a suitcase by inspectors at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

Baggage handlers had noticed a "putrid smell" from an unaccompanied suitcase believed to have come from Lagos, Nigeria, and apparently destined for the US. Inspectors said the 30kg suitcase was filled with rotting baboon noses.

Bush meat and parts of endangered species, especially ivory tusks and rhino horns, are routinely found at the airport in luggage but this haul was described as "staggering" by inspectors.

The noses, which have now been destroyed, were believed to be for human consumption or, more probably, to be used as a traditional medicine or fertility booster. Police are still trying to find the owner of the case.

Esther Naber, of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said: "Baboons can be found in many African countries from Eritrea to Senegal and Gambia to Sierra Leone.

"We are contacting colleagues all over the continent to try to discover where this mass slaughter was. Baboons are on the second-most-endangered list and can be killed only under exceptional circumstances and with a licence. The numbers here are enormous and just show that while laws may be in place to protect these creatures, enforcement is an entirely different matter."

The Netherlands has become a major point of entry for trade in endangered and exotic species, and investigations show drug-smugglers have been behind many seized shipments.

"International surveillance must be stepped up," Ms Naber said. "This huge number of baboon noses was allowed to leave Africa without being spotted."