Operation Thunderstorm: INTERPOL Makes Global Wildlife Crime Arrests
INTERPOL has made significant progress in combating global wildlife crime in an international operation known as Operation Thunderstorm. In a massive all-out war against timber and wildlife poaching, the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group coordinated with partner agencies from 92 countries to seize wildlife contraband and arrest wildlife smugglers, INTERPOL reports.
From May 1-31, the international group made the following seizures from more than 92 partnering countries:
- 43 tons of wild meat (including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra)
- 1.3 tons of raw and processed elephant ivory
- 27,000 reptiles (including 869 alligators/crocodiles, 9,590 turtles and 10,000 snakes)
- almost 4,000 birds, including pelicans, ostriches, parrots and owls
- several tons of wood and timber
- 48 live primates
- 14 big cats (tiger, lion, leopard and jaguar)
- the carcasses of seven bears, including two polar bears
Additional Seizures Made Worldwide With Coordinated Efforts from INTERPOL Partner Agencies
About 1,400 animal and plant poachers have been arrested worldwide with many of them awaiting prosecutions around the world. A total of 1,974 wildlife contraband have been seized due to orchestrated collaborations between police, customs, border, environment, wildlife and forestry agencies from around the globe.
In addition to the above seizures, eight tons of pangolin scales were seized worldwide during Operation Thunderstorm. One individual suspected of human trafficking and job scams was found hoarding carcasses of animals such as fox, jackal, and mongoose among others in his Israeli home. A consignment of 18 tons of eel raised in Asia was seized after preparation for consumption in North American markets.
Poaching, Tax Evasion, Corruption, Money Laundering and Violent Crimes All Go Together
INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group collaborated with several international organizations to achieve the noted milestones in their fight against flora and fauna smuggling.
Some of these are the World Customs Organization (WCO), the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat, UNODC and the World Bank.
“Operation Thunderstorm has seen significant seizures at global level, showing how coordinated global operations can maximize impact,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“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.”