Interpol takes aim at environmental crime


A global operation tackling the illegal trade in wildlife and timber earlier this month resulted in the identification of almost 900 suspects and 1 300 seizures of illicit products valued atUS$5,1 million.

The operation is yet another in Interpol’s ongoing commitment to supporting its 190 member countries in combatting all environmental crime.

Codenamed Thunderbird, the operation involved police, customs, border agencies, wildlife and forestry offices from 43 countries and territories.

South Africa, along with Botswana, Mozambique and Sweden from the Southern African Development community (SADC), participated in the operation.

Among the seizures was 2,75 tons of pangolin scales, the world’s most hunted animal. There are eight species of pangolin on two continents – four each in Africa and Asia – and they are trafficked for meat and their keratin, the same building block as rhino horn, scales.

The full list of seizures is: 60 tonnes 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; and 37 130 derivatives and processed products such as medicines/ornaments/carvings.

The three week long operation has to date resulted in 370 investigations with 89 people jailed for 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,” Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said.
“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.”