Yesterday (Tuesday 20th June) Interpol announced that it had carried out its biggest operation to date against the illegal wildlife trade. The operation covered 17 African countries as well as China. Over 200 smugglers were arrested and over 2 tonnes of ivory and other wildlife parts recovered.
African countries which participated in Operation Worthy were Ethiopia, Botswana, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe. [pullquote]This has been to date the most wide-ranging operation coordinated by INTERPOL against the illegal ivory trade, not just in terms of seizures and arrests, but also in targeting the criminal organizations making millions of dollars through the killing and destruction of wildlife and their habitat.[/pullquote]
3 months of investigations leads to raids and seizures.
The operation covered three months of investigations and monitoring of web sites and on-line auctions. In addition to the ivory seized the investigators also recovered:
- 20kg rhino horn,
- lion skins,
- leopard pelts,
- cheetah pelts,
- crocodile and python skins,
- live tropical birds,
- and other CITES protected species,
as well as poaching equipment such as rifles.
“This has been to date the most wide-ranging operation coordinated by INTERPOL against the illegal ivory trade, not just in terms of seizures and arrests, but also in targeting the criminal organizations making millions of dollars through the killing and destruction of wildlife and their habitat, and associated crimes such as murder, corruption and money laundering,” said David Higgins, manager of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme.
“The intelligence gathered during Operation Worthy will enable us to identify the links between the poachers and the global networks driving and facilitating the crime. By identifying their international trafficking routes, arresting those involved at higher levels, and suppressing the crime at its source, in transit, and at its destination we are making a real contribution to the conservation of the world’s environment and biodiversity,” he said.
Interpol operation supported by IFAW.
The Interpol operation was supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who provided training to law enforcement officers in Africa and intelligence to Chinese authorities.
More than 320 officers from a range of agencies including police, customs, environmental protection agencies, veterinary services, airport security, ministries of tourism and national prosecuting authorities took part in Operation Worthy which saw interventions carried out at markets, ports, shops, border crossings and during roadside checks.
“IFAW believes that one elephant killed for its ivory is one too many. We will not stand by while elephants are needlessly slaughtered,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of IFAW’s Wildlife Crime and Consumer Awareness Programme. “Some range states are doing their part in hosting and protecting their elephants – the rest of us must act to support them in these efforts. That means developed countries joining IFAW in training wildlife officers, researching the illegal trade and ensuring the safety of our common natural heritage.”
Raids part of UK funded Project Wisdom.
Operation Worthy was part of INTERPOL’s Project WISDOM, an initiative against elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn poaching funded by the UK Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and IFAW.