Interpol environmental crimes division has announced that almost 4,000 dealers in wild birds have been caught from Operation Cage – a three-month intensive investigation between May and June focusing on the trade in endangered birds. Wildlife and law enforcement officers across 32 different countries took part in the investigations.
While Operation Cage focused primarily on birds the action also uncovered trading routes of other wildlife and products such as ivory. As well as the arrests of almost 4,000 traders the law enforcement officers also seized nearly 8,700 birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and other animals. Also seized were hunting and trapping equipment together with firearms and ammunition. [pullquote]The criminals involved in this illicit trade have no concern for the welfare of these birds and animals and that many of the species being trafficked are endangered, the only concern they have is about the profits they can make.[/pullquote]
The teams involved in the investigation contained specialist wildlife officers, police and customs officers.Raids were conducted at sites including ports, airports, postal services, markets, pet stores and taxidermists in South and Central America and Europe.
“Operation Cage once again clearly demonstrates the global scale of the problem of the illegal trade in birds and other wildlife, which is not just an organized crime issue, but also represents a biosecurity risk,” said David Higgins, manager of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme.
“The criminals involved in this illicit trade have no concern for the welfare of these birds and animals and that many of the species being trafficked are endangered, the only concern they have is about the profits they can make.
“Operation Cage provides an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to work together to identify and arrest the criminals involved, disrupt the networks, stop the cash flow, and use the intelligence gathered to continue their investigations. INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme will continue to provide every support to each of our member countries in tackling this crime which affects every region of the world,” concluded Mr Higgins.
Operation Cage is the third major operation undertaken by Interpol into the illegal trade in wildlife.
The UK aspect of the investigation concentrated on the continuing trade in birds of prey. In Scotland 26 inspections were completed as a result of which Police forces supported by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) are involved in 14 investigations. Five people have been arrested to date, one person convicted and there are several pending court cases. The Operation Cage team involved officers from the Border Force and Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.
The Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPOS) lead on Wildlife Crime, Chief Constable Stuart Hyde of Cumbria Police praised the organisations involved in Operation Cage in the UK saying:
“This is an example of UK Law Enforcement working together to support international wildlife crimes. No single agency can manage this alone. By contributing effort from across the UK and linking in with Interpol we have been able to start the process to bring people to justice for breaking national and international conventions”.
Operation cage which concentrated on the illegal trade in wild birds in Europe and South America was supported by funds from Supported by the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and Environment Canada,
Lothian and Borders Police: UK plays vital role in tackling illegal wildlife trade.