A monthlong operation against wildlife crime has yielded 699 arrests and the seizure of elephant tusks, a lion cub and live chimpanzees among more than 2,000 trafficked creatures and plants, police agency Interpol said on Monday.
“Further arrests and prosecutions are anticipated as ongoing global investigations progress,” as a result of Operation Thunder 2020, which ended on October 11, it said in a statement.
In Cameroon, customs officers seized 187 raw elephant tusks from a truck crossing the border from Gabon, while in Mexico, law enforcement rescued an adult female white tiger, a jaguar and a four-month-old lion cub in Sinaloa, said Interpol.
Police in Zimbabwe thwarted the transfer of 32 live chimpanzees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indian customs intercepted an 18-tonne shipment of red sandalwood destined for the United Arab Emirates.
Overall, Operation Thunder yielded over 1.3 tons of ivory and more than a ton of pangolin scales, representing some 1,700 slaughtered pangolins.
Officials also seized 1,400 live turtles and tortoises and 6,000 turtle or tortoise eggs, as well as 1,160 birds and 1,800 reptiles.
“Wildlife and forestry crime is the world’s fourth largest illegal trade — a lucrative illegal business with far-reaching and devastating consequences not just for the environment but also for society, public health and global economics,” said Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock.
“Wildlife and forestry crime often occurs hand in hand with tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and even murder, with organized crime groups using the same routes to smuggle protected wildlife as they do people, weapons, drugs and other illegal products.”
Interpol said the operation saw five police officers and three forestry police officers in North Macedonia attacked while attempting to prevent illegal logging activities. Two of them were seriously injured.