LYON, France – A global operation tackling the illegal trade in wildlife and timber has resulted in the identification of nearly 900 suspects and 1,300 seizures of illicit products worth an estimated $5.1 million, INTERPOL announced Thursday
Code-named Thunderbird, the operation involved police, customs, border agencies, environment, wildlife and forestry officials from 43 countries and territories, and resulted in a range of seizures including;
- 60 tons of wood and timber
- 4,770 birds
- 1,240 reptiles including at least 560 turtles and tortoises
- 100 wild cats
- 2.75 tons of pangolin scales
- 2.54 tons of raw and processed ivory
- 25 tons of various animal parts, including meat, horns and feathers
- 37,130 derivatives and processed products such as medicines/ornaments/carvings
Among the more than 14.3 tons of marine wildlife seized were 180 dead seahorses which had been concealed in snack boxes discovered by U.S. authorities, with additional seahorse seizures also made in Mozambique.
In Hong Kong, China, officers seized 1.3 tons of red sandalwood hidden in a container shipped from Malaysia.
Intelligence was gathered and shared ahead of the operation to assist in identifying specific targets and areas for action. These included wildlife and forest crime hotspots and bottlenecks where checkpoints could be established, in addition to operations at airports and national borders.
Cars, trucks, boats and cargo transporters suspected of moving illicit products were also targeted with searches carried out by officers, specialist sniffer dogs and x-ray scanners.
Scrap yards, taxidermy shops, garages, pet fairs, warehouses and health clinics were also targeted during the operation, resulting in seizures, arrests and general information gathering. Websites and social media offering wildlife products were also the focus of investigations.
The three-week (January to February 19) operation has so far resulted in 370 investigations which have already led to 89 individuals being jailed with terms ranging from several days to seven years.
“Wildlife trafficking has surged in recent years, generating billions in illicit profits. Simply put, criminals are helping themselves to the environment’s precious resources without a care for the cost to our planet,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“The success of this operation is a demonstration of what can be achieved by transnational law enforcement collaboration, and the resolve of countries to tackle environmental crime. INTERPOL also remains committed to tackling wildlife and forest crime across the globe, to protect today’s resources for tomorrow’s generations,” added the INTERPOL chief.