DAKAR (Reuters) - A Senegal court remanded in custody two Senegalese and a Malian on Thursday for involvement in the trade of hundreds of animal skins, including a species of crocodile threatened with extinction, according to the NGO WARA.


Police seized 91 Nile crocodile skins, 354 African rock python skins and 110 Nile monitor lizard skins among others as part of an operation across the suburbs of the capital Dakar this week. Huge mounds of the skins were then trucked to the police station in central Dakar and piled up on the pavement.


"The skins came from Mali and South Africa and, after transformation, are resold to international tourists," said Cecile Bloch, a coordinator for WARA. "It's a large trade with a network that has existed for more than 30 years."


WARA is part of a law-enforcement network of nine African countries called Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE).


The hearing will open in Dakar next week.

Supporters of the accused, who are part of the same family, initially violently resisted their arrest, added Bloch who was present. A fourth man was also arrested for obstructing the police operation and will also appear in court next week alongside the accused, she added.

A police spokesman did not respond for a request for comment.

Officials found a makeshift laboratory for washing and tanning the skins concealed inside the walled compound of one of the men, Ibrahima Sacko.

Photographs from the sting showed the silver skins of reptiles soaking in large cisterns of frothy water to remove the flesh. The skins are thought to be used to make accessories and clothing and several purses were found at one of the raid sites.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Tom Heneghan)