Brasilia, Brazil Brazilian authorities raided warehouses in five states Wednesday and arrested nine people accused of smuggling rare birds for sale in Europe and the United States.
Police also seized some 2,000 birds awaiting shipment during the raid, the first in Brazil to uncover an international wildlife smuggling ring, the government environmental protection agency Ibama said.
The nine suspects will face charges of contraband, mistreatment of wildlife and criminal association, federal police officer Alvaro Palharini said. The crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The birds seized included macaws, toucans, parrots, cardinals and canaries, as well as seed-finches and saltators, considered endangered in Brazil.
The birds were being smuggled to Argentina and Uruguay, then shipped to lucrative markets in Europe and the United States, Ibama said. In Europe, the preferred market, a blue macaw can fetch $30,000.