INTERPOL Hails 'Spectacular' 92-Country Sting Against Wildlife Crime
The month-long "Operation Thunderstorm" took place in May and involved the cooperation of law enforcement and conservation agencies from 92 countries, resulting in 1,974 seizures worth millions of dollars.
Seizures to date include:
- 43 tonnes of wild meat (including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra)
- 1.3 tonnes of raw and processed elephant ivory 27,000 reptiles (including 869 alligators/crocodiles, 9,590 turtles and 10,000 snakes)
- Almost 4,000 birds, including pelicans, ostriches, parrots and owls
- Several tonnes of wood and timber
- 48 live primates
- 14 big cats (tiger, lion, leopard and jaguar)
- The carcasses of seven bears, including two polar bears
The sting also resulted in eight tonnes of pangolin scales seized worldwide, including almost four tonnes by Vietnamese maritime authorities on board a ship arriving from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Additionally, Canadian authorities intercepted a container holding 18 tonnes of eel meat arriving from Asia.
"The results are spectacular," Sheldon Jordan, Canada's director general of wildlife enforcement, said.
Jordan noted that global wildlife crime is worth about $150 billion annually, and is the fourth largest black market after the illegal drug trade, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
INTERPOL's operation also identified some 1,400 suspects, triggering arrests and investigations worldwide, the agency said.
Those arrested include two flight attendants in Los Angeles for attempting to smuggle live spotted turtles to Asia in their personal baggage, as well as a man in Israel who was arrested after posting a hunting photograph on social media, which led to a raid in his home and the seizure of fox, jackal, mongoose bodies and other wildlife items. The suspect was also engaged in people smuggling and illegal employment, a follow-up investigation revealed.
"Operation Thunderstorm has seen significant seizures at global level, showing how coordinated global operations can maximize impact," said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock in a statement.
"By revealing how wildlife trafficking groups use the same routes as criminals involved in other crime areas—often hand in hand with tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and violent crime—Operation Thunderstorm sends a clear message to wildlife criminals that the world's law enforcement community is homing in on them," Stock added.