It’s a gruesome list: a monkey paw, whale ear bones, grey wolf and bear skins, elephant feet and orangutan skulls. All souvenirs people wanted to bring into Australia.

Instead, these items seized at the Australian border will soon be used to aid research and potentially criminal investigations into the illegal wildlife trade. They’re among 200 banned animal products being donated to the Australian Museum in Sydney for science and education.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley inspects the seizure room of the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment in Canberra.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Hundreds more are stored in the basement of a government building in Canberra after being confiscated by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley told Nine News such items “go hand in hand with a very evil trade” – often with links to organised crime.

“But some good is coming from these seized products,” she said. “[Scientists] can examine these, they can learn from them, they can carry out tests and, in some cases, inform our scientific endeavour, which seeks to protect animals internationally.”

Australian Museum chief scientist Professor Kris Helgen said the donated items would be included in a reference collection of more than 20 million objects used by scientists from around the world.

Hundreds of items are stored in the basement of a government building in Canberra after being confiscated by officials.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

They would not only be used for research but could also play a role in helping Australian and international authorities crack down on poaching and the multibillion-dollar global wildlife trade.

“Some of that reference material gets used by our scientists for things like prosecuting animal wildlife trafficking cases,” Professor Helgen said.

“When the government seizes material and it might be involved in a sting operation or a seizure to stop wildlife trafficking from coming into this country – or coming out of this country – they’ll often come to us to help identify material.”

Scientists could also use DNA and chemistry to pinpoint where exactly the animals were hunted and where the products were sent from.

The gruesome list of items people wanted to bring into Australia includes this monkey paw.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“That information goes directly back to managers and law enforcement that need to clamp down in certain areas,” Professor Helgen said.

In Australia, the maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences is 10 years in jail and a $222,000 fine for individuals.

Around 95 per cent of illegal animal products seized at the Australian border are destroyed but others are kept for research and to prosecute criminal cases.

The federal government has recently nominated an extra 125 animals to be added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Animals on this list cannot be brought into Australia without a permit.

“Internationally, this convention acts to protect the animals and prevent that trade,” Ms Ley said. “It’s just so important we work hard with partner nations to prevent the smuggling of our precious wildlife.”

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