“Operation Jungle Book” The Largest Animal Trafficking Sweep In Los Angeles History Brought Criminal Charges Against 16 Defendants & Recovery Of Rare Species

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A Florida man faces charges of being involved in the illegal sale and transportation of a Bengal tiger that was seized from a residence in Ventura County. Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Operation Jungle Book, the largest animal trafficking sweep in Los Angeles history, has resulted in federal criminal charges against 16 defendants who allegedly participated in the illegal importation and or transportation of numerous animal species.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) which launched the months-long initiative held a media event on Friday which featured a broad range of species that have recently been seized by authorities at LAX and other points of entry.

As previously reported by WAN, recent cases include tiger cubs, monitor lizards, cobras, and a tortoise among others.

“Wildlife trafficking does not stop at international borders, and it is our duty to protect imperiled species both at home and abroad,” said Ed Grace, USFWS Acting Chief of Law Enforcement. “I commend our special agents who worked collaboratively with our state and federal partners to investigate, arrest, and prosecute these criminals. I would also like to thank the sanctuaries and educational centers that shelter, care for, and rehabilitate the live animals we seize. Together, we are saving imperiled animals while bringing to justice those who attempt to profit from the illegal wildlife trade.

The USFWS officials were joined by representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).

The black market for protected wildlife increases the demand for wildlife and their parts, which threatens to decimate vulnerable species. The prosecution of these cases will educate the public about the laws protecting wildlife and deter future wildlife crimes.

“We are combatting an ever-growing black market for exotic animals. An insatiable desire to own examples, both living and dead, of these vulnerable creatures, is fueling this black market,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “This is truly an international problem that threatens the survival of iconic species and vulnerable animal populations. The United States Attorney’s Office is prosecuting a wide array of cases that highlight the pervasive problem of wildlife trafficking and the associated issues of invasive species, disease transmission and the extinction of certain species.

The cases brought as part of Operation Jungle Book are being handled by the Assistant United States Attorneys Erik M. Silber, Amanda Bettinelli, Dennis Mitchell and Heather Gorman of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.

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