Rare animals and wildlife suffer around the world on a daily basis, with thousands of people being involved in the illegal trafficking of animals. These people are only interested in one thing: money, but finally somebody decided it was high time to do something about it.
An intricate Interpol sting operation that was many months in the making just landed a lot of people in a bunch of trouble; among them, flight attendants carrying turtles in their suitcases…
Sadly, the international trade of rare and nearly extinct animals is big business; so big, that the international police agency, Interpol, had to take action to try to curtail these illegal activities. The recent sting operation saw thousands of living and dead animals seized by authorities, with jail time on the horizon for those involved.
Police from around the world worked tirelessly to locate the perpetrators of what they knew was going on right under their noses; the mass import and export of protected species. They found meat, ivory, and countless live animals being kept in bad conditions. The operation led to the arrest of a staggering 1,400 people from numerous different countries…
While a number of flight attendants were arrested when protected animals were found in their baggage, others were arrested for rearing their heads on social media. One man, for example, who had posted his illegal trophies to his social media pages found himself facing the long arm of the law, as well as many others, as authorities clamp down on these wicked acts.
The complex sting operation, named “Thunderstorm” used a bunch of resources, including police, customs officers, border control and even wildlife and forestry agencies across 92 countries. The operation was a resounding success, with numerous vital seizures, both of endangered species and money…
Wild animal meat is big business and something that people are prepared to pay big money for. It may seem strange to some people, however, there is a roaring illegal trade globally for bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and even zebra meat. And that’s not to mention valuable ivory from elephant tusks.
Operation Thunderstorm saw an amazing 1,974 seizures of millions of dollars worth of wild meat – whereby 43 metric tons were found. Along with that, 1.3 tons of elephant ivory was seized as well as 27,000 reptiles, around 4,000 birds, and the carcasses of seven bears…
Illegal timber is also big business even if it isn’t quite as immoral as animal trafficking. According to Sheldon Jordan, who works for Canada’s Wildlife Enforcement agency, “In this operation, these countries focused during the month of May on all sort of wildlife crimes whether they be plants, animals, timber,” adding, “The results were spectacular.”
People usually assume that flight attendants would never dream of trafficking live animals but they are wrong. Thunderstorm saw at least two flight attendants stopped at Los Angeles airport with live spotted turtles to Asia in personal baggage. Both suspects have been charged with smuggling protected species.
Pangolins are the most trafficked animals in the world, half of which are smuggled by Vietnamese maritime ships from the Congo. Thunderstorm saw a massive 8 tons of pangolin scales, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. These mammals are now on the brink of extinction as their scales are favored in Asian medicine.
One Million Poached
According to estimates, more than one million of these mammals with hard shells have been poached over the last ten years. That means that these creatures are now threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
At a global wildlife summit recently, the trade of all pangolins was totally banned, although it’s doubtful that will change anything as people in Africa, where they reside want to make money, and Asian consumers have a thing for their meat and other parts of them which they use in medicine, especially in China.
Unfortunately, Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in Vietnam, and this fact along with others means that pangolin populations in East and Central Africa are in big trouble. However, according to Anne-Marie Weeden, general manager at the Uganda Conservation Foundation, this is only “the tip of the iceberg,”
Weeden explained that poverty and a complete lack of animal welfare standards in Africa are responsible for the endangered species status due to the fact that people living in rural areas generally don’t see any value in protecting animals and see them only as money.
According to Weeden, if people don’t have a viable alternative they will benefit from the wildlife around them if it means making enough money to support their families. “People need to have a meaningful alternative source of income and have to benefit from the national parks they live next door to,” Weeden said…
The Chinese are particularly superstitious about elephant trunks and believe they have serious medical value. In recent years, as a result of that, tens of thousands of elephants in Africa have been killed. Conservationists estimate that roughly 20,000 elephants are killed each year just to meet the demand for ivory.
According to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, president and founder of Save the Elephants, “This is a critical period for elephants.” He added, “With the end of the legal ivory trade in China, the survival chances for elephants have distinctly improved.” However, in some areas so many have been killed that their population numbers can never recover…
For their part, according to Douglas-Hamilton, the Chinese deserve credit for doing the right thing when it comes to the trade of ivory, “We must give credit to China for having done the right thing by closing the ivory trade. There is still a long way to go to end the excessive killing of elephants for ivory, but there is now greater hope for the species.” He said.
There’s no doubt that the statistics speak for themselves. Lucy Vigne, also from Save the Elephants, said that at least 130 licensed ivory outlets in China have been steadily decreasing their demand, “Findings from 2015 and 2016 in China have shown that the legal ivory trade especially has been severely diminished,” she said.
Operation a Success
No matter who you ask, there’s no question that this operation was a resounding success, as Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said to reporters, the sting shows “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.”
Everyone involved in the operation, as well as many others across the globe, hope that it will go some way to highlight the plight of endangered species around the world and to discourage people from trafficking them. Everyone knows there’s a long way to go but at least operation Thunderbolt is a step in the right direction.
Rare Animal Traffickers Targeted By Interpol In Massive Sting Operation is an article from: LifeDaily