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Animal protection authorities confiscated two coatimundis, a species of raccoon, that turned up in a Holon pet store yesterday.

"We received an anonymous call about a raccoon in a pet store," Holon's municipal veterinarian, Dr. Uri Bratman, said. "That set off alarm bells, because Israel has a wild animal protection law banning commerce in wildlife, and what's more, Israel is a signatory to an international convention prohibiting trade in these animals."

Six people, including municipal workers, police and Israel Nature and Parks Authority staff, came to pick up the animals, which turned out not to be raccoons, but a South American relative.

"The pet shop owner wrote us and asked for a permit to keep the coatimundis. He didn't wait for an answer and went ahead and kept them," said Arieh Keller, who is in charge of preventing wildlife trade at the nature and parks authority. "His argument was that he was saving them from children who had bought them elsewhere and were keeping them in inhumane conditions.

"They were in a one meter by one meter cage, not suitable for coatimundis," Keller added.

Keller said he believed the animals, which are about nine months old, came from a petting zoo, where they were born due to uncontrolled breeding.

Keller confirmed that it is against the law to give, sell or keep these animals without a nature and parks authority permit.

"In the past there was extensive trade in wild animals, but we hardly see it anymore. The shops know what's allowed and what's not. Shop owners in possession of illegal animals are usually prosecuted."

The shop owner would not be charged because of the circumstances of this case, Keller said.