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IFAW: INTERPOL completes largest ever ivory operation while Chinese authorities crack down on wildlife trafficking

(London – 19 June 2012) – INTERPOL has arrested more than 200 people, seized almost two tonnes of contraband ivory, 20kg of rhino horn and military grade automatic weapons in an operation that spanned three months and 14 African countries.

Operation Worthy saw INTERPOL and IFAW (www.ifaw.org – International Fund for Animal Welfare) team up to target criminal organisations behind the illegal trafficking of ivory. Also seized were lion, leopard and cheetah pelts, crocodile and python skins, live tropical birds, turtles and other protected species destined to be illegally trafficked around the world.

More than 320 officers from a range of agencies including police, customs, environmental protection agencies, veterinary services, airport security, ministries of tourism and national prosecuting authorities took part in Operation Worthy which saw interventions carried out at markets, ports, shops, border crossings and during roadside checks.

“IFAW believes that one elephant killed for its ivory is one too many. We will not stand by while elephants are needlessly slaughtered,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of IFAW’s Wildlife Crime and Consumer Awareness Programme. “Some range states are doing their part in hosting and protecting their elephants – the rest of us must act to support them in these efforts. That means developed countries joining IFAW in training wildlife officers, researching the illegal trade and ensuring the safety of our common natural heritage.”

“This has been to date the most wide-ranging operation coordinated by INTERPOL against the illegal ivory trade, not just in terms of seizures and arrests, but also in targeting the criminal organisations making millions of dollars through the killing and destruction of wildlife and their habitat, and associated crimes such as murder, corruption and money laundering,” said David Higgins, manager of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme.

“The intelligence gathered during Operation Worthy will enable us to identify the links between the poachers and the global networks driving and facilitating the crime. By identifying their international trafficking routes, arresting those involved at higher levels, and suppressing the crime at its source, in transit, and at its destination we are making a real contribution to the conservation of the world’s environment and biodiversity,” concluded Mr Higgins.

Countries which participated in Operation Worthy: Ethiopia, Botswana, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

At the same time as Operation Worthy was ongoing the State Forestry Police Bureau (FPB) in China received intelligence from IFAW which allowed them to uncover 700 cases of illegal wildlife trade during a recent crackdown on websites and antique markets. They busted 13 gangs, punished 1,031 illegal traders and seized more than 130,000 wild animals and animal products. A total of 7,155 high street shops and 628 websites selling banned animals were shut down and 1,607 related online messages were removed in the action.

The Chinese operation involved an astounding 100,000 officers from multiple provinces across the country.

At the request of the FPB, IFAW is currently helping them recheck the reported illegal website listings and will report to them again for follow-up enforcement if any of these items are found to still be on sale.

“IFAW is proud that our efforts and intelligence were an integral part of this impressive crackdown by Chinese authorities on wildlife trafficking,” said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director. “The Chinese authorities are to be congratulated for tackling this issue directly and IFAW remains ready to help with more intelligence.”

Few animals are as threatened by wildlife trafficking as elephants. Earlier this year IFAW raised the alarm as hundreds of elephants were slaughtered in Cameroon. A recent report from IFAW makes it clear that Chinese demand, and demand in other Asian countries, is largely to blame.

IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean. To date, more than 1,300 governmental representatives at the forefront of this struggle have been trained since 2006. Just this month IFAW has conducted trainings in Bhutan, Congo Brazzaville, Dubai and Kazahkstan.

Ends

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on 0207 587 6708, mobile 07917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org.

Notes to Editors –

High Definition still images and video can be downloaded at ifawimages.com.

More Articles by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) ...

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