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Thousands of animals seized in wildlife operation

Louisa Wright
June 20, 2018

A month-long operation in May recovered thousands of animals and tons of timber from smugglers and illegal loggers. The operation involved police, customs and wildlife authorities in 92 countries.

A Canadian wildlife offier inspects a Polar Bear skin
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Interpol

A one-month international operation against the illegal trade of wildlife and timber has resulted in almost 2,000 seizures, the international police agency Interpol said on Wednesday.

Codenamed "Thunderstorm," the operation took place during May and targeted the people and networks behind global wildlife crime, with 1,974 seizures made and 1,400 suspects identified.

The operation involved police, customs, border, environment, wildlife and forestry agencies from 92 countries.

Read more: Europe, a silent hub of illegal wildlife trade

So far the operation has recovered:

  • 43 tons of wild meat (including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra)
  • 1.3 tons or 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 metric tons of wood and timber
  • 48 live primates
  • 14 big cats (tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars)
  • The carcasses of seven bears, including two polar bears

Eight tons of pangolin scales were recovered worldwide, with close to four tons found by Vietnamese maritime authorities on a ship coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read more: Living Planet: Fighting wildlife crime

In Los Angeles, two flight attendants were arrested after they attempted to smuggle live spotted turtles to Asia in their personal baggage. Both were charged with smuggling a protected species and an investigation has been opened.

Read more: Wildlife trafficking: Trade driven by greed

Another man was arrested in Israel where he is awaiting deportation to Thailand after he posted a hunting photograph on social media that led to their seizure of various wildlife items at his home, such as the bodies of foxes, jackals and mongooses.