Live animals, meat, ivory, wood seized in worldwide illegal wildlife trafficking stings

In this file photo taken on Friday March 16, 2018 a pangolin from the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital is taken to a nearby field to forage for food near Johannesburg. Nearly 100 countries took part in a globe-spanning crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade, seizing tons of meat, ivory, pangolin scales and timber in a monthlong bust that exposed the international reach of traffickers, Interpol said Wednesday, June 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)

By SYLVIE CORBET,  Associated Press  PARIS (AP) 06/21 — Thousands of live animals along with tons of meat, ivory, pangolin scales and timber were seized in a monthlong global crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade that Interpol said exposed the international reach of traffickers.

The live animals recovered in the stings included turtles in Malaysia and parrots in Mexico. Canada intercepted 18 tons of eel meat arriving from Asia. Those arrested included two flight attendants in Los Angeles and a man in Israel whose house was raided after he posted a hunting photograph on social media.

In this photo taken on May 2018 in Mexico and provided by Interpol on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, a box of Agapornis parrots are intercepted by Mexican Police authorities. International police agency Interpol said a giant operation against illegal trade in wildlife and timber resulted in millions of dollars-worth of seizures and the identification of 1,400 suspects across the world. (Interpol via AP)

 

Operation Thunderstorm, involving 92 countries, yielded seizures worth millions of dollars during May, Interpol said Wednesday.

“The results are spectacular,” said Sheldon Jordan, Canada’s director general of wildlife enforcement.

Acknowledging the magnitude of the problem, Jordan said global wildlife crime is worth about $150 billion annually and is fourth in value among illegal global trades behind drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

Criminal syndicates that smuggle flora and fauna often take advantage of porous borders and corrupt officials, transporting illicit cargo at an industrial scale.

The Thunderstorm swoop included the confiscation of 8 tons of pangolin scales, half of which was found by Vietnamese authorities on a ship from Africa.

FILE — In this file photo taken on Friday March 16, 2018 a pangolin from the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital forages for food at the base of an anthill, near Johannesburg. Nearly 100 countries took part in a globe-spanning crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade, seizing tons of meat, ivory, pangolin scales and timber in a monthlong bust that exposed the international reach of traffickers, Interpol said Wednesday, June 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)

 

Africa’s four species of pangolins are under increasing pressure from poachers because of the decimation of the four species in Asia, where pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine.

A total of 43 tons of contraband meat — including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra — 1.3 tons of elephant ivory, 27,000 reptiles, about 4,000 birds, 48 live primates, 14 big cats and two polar bear carcasses were also seized. Several tons of wood and timber were also seized.

China, the world’s largest ivory consumer, banned its domestic trade starting this year in what conservationists hope will relieve pressure on Africa’s besieged elephant populations. While some herds are recovering, a high rate of killing continues in many areas, such as Mozambique’s Niassa reserve.

Some 1,400 suspects were identified worldwide, Interpol said. Two flight attendants were arrested in Los Angeles carrying live spotted turtles to Asia in personal baggage, said Interpol. Both suspects have been charged with smuggling protected species.

In this photo taken in May 2018 in Malaysia and provided by Interpol on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, small turtles are intercepted by Malaysian police authorities. International police agency Interpol said a giant operation against illegal trade in wildlife and timber resulted in millions of dollars-worth of seizures and the identification of 1,400 suspects across the world. (Interpol via AP)

Participating nations were from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North and South America. The Pacific nation of Vanuatu, which is not an Interpol member, took part.

Officers searched cars, trucks, boats and containers, sometimes using sniffer dogs and X-ray scanners.

The operation, Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said, showed that wildlife traffickers use the same routes as other criminals, “often hand-in-hand with tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and violent crime.”

___

Associated Press writer Christopher Torchia in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

 

https://www.apnews.com/abb53f5d1921485dae23dde73d40950d/Live-animals,-meat,-ivory,-wood-seized-in-trafficking-stings

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in: Arrests, Crime & Criminals, Illegal Hunting/Poaching, International Policing, Interpol/Europol, Investigations, Smuggling, Wildlife Trafficking/Animal Welfare/Animal Control

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