Leeds nostalgia: Crocodile head ashtray

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An ashtray made from a crocodile’s head and a stuffed mongoose are among a bizarre collection of objects stored in Leeds after being taken from would-be smugglers.

The exotic items, kept at the Leeds Discovery Centre, were mainly found during raids and searches by UK customs officers and are part of a collection on long-term loan.

The collection is made up of objects seized because they breached laws around importing or keeping exotic species or animal products and also includes ivory carvings, turtle shells, rare butterflies and a parrot preserved in a jar of ethanol. They are used to teach visitors about animal welfare and respect for the planet’s endangered creatures.

Rebecca Machin, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of natural sciences said: “Whilst some of those people actively try to smuggle objects into the country, many others don’t realise they could also be breaking the law when they return from holiday with turtle shells, carved ivory products or items made from animal skins.

“Buying these sorts of tourist souvenirs encourages the exploitation of rare animals and can worsen the already precarious plight of endangered species worldwide, so the hope is that buy showcasing this collection, we can raise awareness of just how important it is that holidaymakers don’t support that industry.”

The Leeds Discovery Centre hosts visits and behind-the-scenes tours by appointment, which can be booked by contacting the centre on 0113 378 2100 or by email at discovery.centre@leeds.gov.uk