Breaking! INTERPOL Releases Update On Massive Illegal Wildlife Trade Operation That Recovered 2 Polar Bear Carcasses, 14 Big Cats & Over A Ton Of Elephant Ivory

Photos from INTERPOL

An international operation against the illegal trade in wildlife has resulted in millions of dollars-worth of seizures including parts from endangered species such as polar bears and tigers.

INTERPOL announced today that the operation has so far resulted in 1,974 seizures and the identification of some 1,400 suspects; triggering arrests and investigations worldwide.

Codenamed Thunderstorm, the operation took place in May and involved police, customs, border, environment, wildlife and forestry agencies from 92 countries around the world.

“Operation Thunderstorm has seen significant seizures at a global level, showing how coordinated global operations can maximize impact,” INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said in a statement. “By revealing how wildlife trafficking groups use the same routes as criminals involved in other crime areas, often hand in hand with tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and violent crime, Operation Thunderstorm sends a clear message to wildlife criminals that the world’s law enforcement community is homing in on them.”

Operation Thunderstorm, the second in a global ‘Thunder’ series initiated and coordinated by INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO) in conjunction with the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), also recovered 27,000 reptiles, including 869 alligators and crocodiles, 9,590 turtles, and 10,000 snakes as well as close to 4,000 birds, 48 live primates and eight tons of scales from Pangolin, the world’s most trafficked animal.

Forty-three tons of wild meat from bear, elephant, and whale, as well as 1.3 tons of raw and processed elephant ivory, were also secured during the intelligence-driven operation.

“No one country, region or agency can tackle illegal wildlife trade alone. Collective action across source, transit, and destination states is essential,” stated Ben Janse van Rensburg, CITES Secretariat Chief of Enforcement Support. “On behalf of all ICCWC partner agencies, I commend the excellent work done in member countries, Operation Thunderstorm is a testimony to what can be achieved if we all work together.”

More arrests and prosecutions are likely as Operation Thunderstorm investigations continue to unfold.

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