Worldwide Operation Across 133 Countries Targets Wildlife and Forest Crime

Опубликовано: 13 Декабрь 2023

14 Indonesia smuggled birdsMore than 1,300 birds and 53 primates, among other species, were trafficked alive. (Photo: INTERPOL, License)

A seven-year-long international operation, spanning 133 countries, culminated in the recovery of 2,114 turtle eggs, birds, and primates, as well as several tons of plants, timber, and ivory, Interpol reported Tuesday.

Since 2017, police, in collaboration with wildlife and forestry officials across those countries, have made 500 arrests as part of Operation Thunder, whose perpetrators were responsible for the trafficking of several endangered species.

“Important and endangered animals, birds and plants are being put at risk of extinction by wildlife and timber traffickers,” said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “These appalling crimes not only deprive the world of unique animals and plants but also countries of their natural assets and resources.”

Also included amongst the seizures were 300 kg of ivory, thousands of turtle eggs, 30 tons of plants, dozens of feline body parts, rhino horns, primates, and multiple other bird and marine species.

Some vulnerable species, such as primates and turtles, were subjected to trafficking inside of suitcases, cages and cardboard boxes before their rescue. Many of the subjects recovered are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement that regulates cross-border trade involving animals and plants.

Police also confiscated 2,624 cubic meters of timber, enough to fill 440 standard maritime containers.

Investigators attached to Operation Thunder revealed that 60 percent of wildlife trafficking cases are linked to organized crime groups. Such criminals, Interpol said, rely on document fraud, such as forged certificates and permits, to traffic and ultimately sell the captive animals.

Depending on the species, some animals are destined for slaughter and their skins repurposed for luxury brand fashion items, authorities said.

The illegal wildlife trade can also camouflage itself amongst legitimate businesses, such as pet stores; as was the case with one in Portugal, whose owner police have linked to trafficking endangered animals.

Ivonne Higuero, CITES Secretary General, praised first responders for their results, highlighting that “well targeted, unified and coordinated efforts such as those mobilized through this global operation are exactly what is needed to overcome the threat posed by wildlife crime.”