Environmental Crime Operations

Law enforcement and non-governmental organizations around the world are constantly planning and conducting operations to catch environmental criminal groups and fugitives involved in environmental crimes (PDF). These crimes may occur at local, regional, national, or transnational levels and include the illegal trade in live animals; illegal trade in wildlife parts and trophies; pollution of air, water, and soil; over-exploitation of fishing grounds; climate change crime and corruption; illegal logging; natural resource theft; and biosecurity.

This index of operations targeting environmental crime syndicates, wildlife poachers, timber traffickers, and other individuals provides a summary of each operation and its results. To avoid compromising ongoing operations, only publicly-available information is provided on this page. This list is organized by date with the most recent operations listed first.


Ongoing Operations

► NTSCIU’s Operations Against Major Wildlife Traffickers

Organizations: Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU).

Yang Feng Lan (Credit: Elephant Action League)

Yang Feng Lan. Photo: Elephant Action League

Background: Targeting major criminal syndicates, high-profile poachers and wildlife traffickers.

Results: The apprehension of Boniface Matthew Mariango, known to Tanzanian law enforcement as “Shetani” or “Devil,” who is suspected to have been a ringleader of several major ivory poaching syndicates throughout East Africa and Mozambique and one of the region’s largest ivory traffickers. The NTSCIU’s wildlife crimes task force also arrested Yang Feng Lan, a Chinese national known as “Ivory Queen,” who had lived in Tanzania on and off since 1975. She has been accused of trafficking 1,889 kg (4,155 pounds) of ivory between January 2000 and May 2014.

Related: For more on the arrests and prosecutions of wildlife traffickers, visit Faces of the Poachers: Wildlife Traffickers & Smugglers ►

► PERHILITAN’s Operations Against Online Wildlife Traffickers

Organizations: Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia’s Cybercrime Unit (PERHILITAN).

Background: The cybercrime unit unit of a Malaysian law enforcement department has been monitoring and raiding wildlife traffickers who use closed Facebook groups to advertise their animals available for legal and illegal sale.

Results: With the start of Operation Taring I in 2014, PERHILITAN has conducted raids against online wildlife traffickers (PDF, page iv), many of which are selling species protected by Malaysian national law. A large variety of wildlife have been advertised by these traffickers or seized as a result of these operations including juvenile sun bears, a tiger cub, orangutans, otters, and turtles. Operations Taring II and III have continued the effort to shut down online operators, including on Facebook, and as of October 2016 at least 59 suspected traders and buyers in the Malaysian peninsula have been arrested including four individuals attempting to sell Sumatran orangutans (PDF, page 8).

► Operation “Crash

Organizations: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Background: A nationwide crackdown with global reach focusing on syndicates trafficking elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.

Results: Since 2011 special agents have seized more than $75 million worth of elephant ivory and rhino horn and achieved 30 convictions of individuals accused of a wide range of crimes related to illicit wildlife trafficking including smuggling, international money laundering, bribery, and violations of the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act.

► Operation “Easter

Organizations: National Wildlife Crime Unit of the UK (NWCU), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and local police and partner agencies.

Background: A crackdown on the theft of bird eggs in Scotland which was later expanded to other parts of the United Kingdom.

Results: Since April of 1997, the operation has sought to protect rare and critically endangered bird species from egg collectors and thieves practicing a hobby dating back to the Victorian era. Arrests are also made of practitioners of falconry who steal raptor eggs and attempt to sell the eggs to unsuspecting individuals.


Operations in 2017

► Operation “Usalama IV (Safety/Peace)” (October 2017)

Organizations: Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO), INTERPOL.

Video: Burundi: Opération Regionalé de Police “Usalama IV” (en Française).

Background: Operation targeting major transnational crimes across Eastern and Southern Africa. Seizing luxury vehicles stolen in Europe and fenced in Africa remained a priority.

Results: Preliminary results of the fourth operation code-named “Safety” or “Peace” saw the arrest of Chancy and Patrick Kaunda, two Malawi nationals wanted internationally for attempting to traffick 781 elephant tusks from Tanzania to their home country. The tusks had an estimated worth of $5.8 million. In Swaziland a number of people were arrested in individual cases of illegal possession of firearms, illicit drugs, and illegal possession of a variety of antelope species or their parts as well as crocodile skin.

► Operation “Fake Gold” (March-April 2017)

Organizations: Elephant Action League.

Background: A multi-part operation using undercover investigators to discover the predominantly Mexican and Chinese traffickers and retailers of totoaba “big tube” swim bladders. As a result of illegal fishing for totoabas, rare vaquita porpoises are also threatened by accidental bycatch in illegal fishing nets.

Results: Undercover investigators employed by EAL sought and uncovered evidence (PDF) that totoaba swim bladder traffickers have been operating in Mexico for “some time” (page 14) and have been or are attempting to use the United States (page 28, 29) as well as Japan (page 16) as transit points. The final destination is China (pages 16-29). Investigators were also able to determine that “golden coin” fish maw identified by shops as “foreign” or “big tube” was used in reference specifically to Mexican totoaba (page 23) rather than locally sourced “golden coin” or “small tube” bahaba fish maw (page 19). While results of this operation have yet to draw arrests, the first part of the report on Operation “Fake Gold” has identified that in spite of increase enforcement of wildlife trafficking laws, certain elements of law enforcement in China are going easy on dealers of illicit sea-life products, including totoaba, and providing sellers with time to hide illicit inventory before inspections (page 27).

► Operation “Thunderbird” (30 January – 19 February 2017)

Organizations: INTERPOL, WCO, UNODC, Environment Canada, UK Border Force, US Fish and Wildlife Service, WCCB (India), others.

Background: During a global event several international- and national-level organizations as well as local law enforcement agencies in 43 countries participated in crackdowns on illicit timber and wildlife trade. The operation involved the World Customs Organization (WCO), UN Office on Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India (WCCB), and dozens of local customs agencies, border agencies, and police.

Results: During the three-week period roughly 58,200 kilograms of wood and timber (page 68) were seized as well as almost 25,000 kg of animal meat; 2,750 kg of pangolin scales; 2,540 kg of raw or worked ivory; 4,770 birds; 100 wild cats; and at least 560 turtles and tortoises. 14,300 kg of marine wildlife was also seized, including 180 dead seahorses. As of early March 2017, Operation Thunderbird has led to the prosecution of 89 individuals and 370 investigations into potential crimes. In India the WCCB seized over 2,500 live animals, 9 skins from big cats, and 19.2 kg of elephant ivory. In South Africa the operation included the raiding of a curio shop where 7 suspects were arrested and a number of illicit or undocumented wildlife parts were found: 16.876 kg of worked ivory; 2.174 kg of rhino horn pieces; 80 grams of rhino horn powder; 1 dried seahorse; 38 leopard or lion teeth, and 286 leopard or lion claws (page 68).

► Operation “Save Kurma” (15 December 2016 – 30 January 2017)

Organizations: WCCB (India).

Background: Over a roughly 45-day period India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) targeted traffickers of a specific family of animals, preparing the way for a larger multinational enforcement operation (Operation “Thunderbird”).

Results: 45 suspects were arrested and 15,739 live turtles were seized.


Operations in 2016

► Operation “Ndiza (To Fly)” (28 November – 2 December 2016)

Organizations: South African National Defence Force, ZA Department of Environmental Affairs.

Background: A Joint Biodiversity Operation in South Africa to intercept wildlife parts, livestock, people, weapons, and narcotics being trafficked into the neighboring country Lesotho.

Results: Two helicopters were deployed in parts of the Eastern Cape in addition to numerous vehicle checkpoints (VCPs) along the border with Lesotho to detect trafficking and other illegal activities (pages 67-68). As of November 2017 the results and overall success of this operation have not been detailed by the South African DEA or SANDF.

► Operation “Usalama III (Safety/Peace)” (June 2016)

Organizations: Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO), INTERPOL.

Background: A highly focused operation targeting transnational crimes across Eastern and Southern Africa.

Results: During the two-day operation nearly 4,500 arrests were made across 22 countries. Fake passports, military uniforms, tonnes of drugs, and other major assets were confiscated. Additionally, 30 vehicles were recovered. Items seized relating to wildlife crime were: 20 kg of ivory, three tortoises, 12 ostrich egg shells, and leopard skins. Seven guns and more than 300 rounds of ammunition were also seized from individuals. A cache of around 85,000 rounds were excavated in Sudan.

► Operation “Rhino” (April 2016 – ???)

Organizations: South African Police Service, SAN Parks, South African National Defence Force.

Background: In continuing efforts to curb poaching in eastern South Africa the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African National Parks Service (SAN Parks), and South African National Defence Force (SANDF) are cooperating to arrest armed poachers and associated persons within national parks and trans-frontier areas.

Results: In the month of April an ongoing operation named “Rhino” are targeting poachers and related personnel in parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, located in the eastern part of the country. In one month these efforts have resulted in the arrest of 49 suspects and the recovery and confiscation of 17 rifles, 5 pistols, 4 silencers, 11 axes, 6 vehicles, and 27 cell phones.


Operations in 2015

► Operation “Worthy II” (January – October 2015)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: From January through October 2015 law enforcement across 11 African nations cracked down on illegal wildlife traffickers.

Results: Operation Worthy II saw the arrests of 376 individuals relating to wildlife crime as well as the investigation of 25 crime syndicates. A variety of wildlife trophies were seized, including big cat skins, warthog teeth, and snake skins. 4,500 kilograms (9,900 pounds) of elephant ivory and rhino horn were seized along with 2,029 pangolin scales and 173 live tortoises.

► Operation “Log” (July – September 2015)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Law enforcement agencies from nine West African nations investigated timber trafficking and harvesting networks. Links between those involved in the illegal rosewood trade and regional corruption, wildlife crime, and firearms trafficking were also discovered.

Results: Over $216 million worth of illegally-harvested timber was seized and 44 individuals arrested.

► Operation “Protection of Asian Wildlife Species II (PAWS II)” (April – May 2015)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: 14 Asian nations, Australia, Canada, Russian, and the United States collaborated in targeting wildlife crime networks.

Results: The seizure of rhino horn, and big cat teeth, thousands of pieces of ivory, and 13,000 kilograms (28,600 pounds) of pangolin scales.

Ivory seized in Italy during COBRA III. © Europol.

Ivory seized in Italy during Operation COBRA III. Photo: Europol.

► Operation “COBRA III” (March – May 2015)

Organizations: ASEAN-WEN, Europol, LATF, SA-WEN, USFWS, others.

Background: Law enforcement from 62 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as the United States. Multinational groups Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), Europol, Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SA-WEN), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) coordinated efforts to crackdown on illegal wildlife products and trafficking.

Results: 12,000 kg of elephant ivory and more than 6,000 kg of timber were seized worldwide. 511 pieces of ivory, a third of the ivory by weight, was seized by Thai Customs and had originated from Democratic Republic of Congo and was destined for Laos. 1,300 kg of ivory was seized in Mozambique; 608 kg in Uganda; and 3,700 kg in Singapore en route to Vietnam from Kenya.

At least 119 rhino horns were recovered, 65 from Mozambique alone. 100,000 pills purporting to be traditional Asian medicine were confiscated. Hundreds of kilograms of sea plants, over 500 kg of frozen eels, and more than 400 live turtles were seized in Europe. Over 300 arrests were made.


Operations in 2014

► Operation “Amazonas II” (November 2014 – ???)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Central and South American criminals and networks illegally trading in big-leaf mahogany, black rosewood, cedar, laurel, pine, and other tree species are targeted by 12 countries.

Results: 200 individuals have been arrested as of November 2015. 53,000 cubic meters of wood were seized as well as 25,000 logs and 1,200 sacks of charcoal.

► Operation “SpiderNet” (Late 2014 – 2015)

Organizations: Tanzanian law enforcement and People’s Defence Forces.

Background: A variety of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) and Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), coordinated efforts in Katavi to combat ivory poaching and arms smuggling.

Results: Within the first 18 hours of the operation vehicles and seven firearms were seized; 95 people were arrested. Hundreds more firearms have been confiscated near Katavi National Park. Dozens more arrests have been made during the operation, with special emphasis on villages within the Katumba Refugee Camp which may be giving shelter to Hutu rebels with ties to the Rwandan genocide.

► Operation “Infra Terra” (October 2014 – ???)

Rajkumar Praja of Nepal under arrest by Interpol/Malaysian law enforcement. Credit: Interpol.

Rajkumar Praja of Nepal under arrest by law enforcement. Photo: Interpol.

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: 36 nations around the globe coordinated to capture 136 fugitives suspected of environmental crimes relating to illegal waste dumping, poaching, or wildlife parts trafficking. International Fugitive Round Up and Arrest (Infra Terra) is one operation within Operation Infra-Red, an international collaboration to locate and arrest international fugitives.

Results: The arrest of Zambian national Ben Simasiku, suspected of poaching and illegal possession of ivory in Botswana. In a separate part of the operation Kenyan national Feisal Ali, suspected leader of a large international ivory smuggling syndicate in East Africa, was also arrested. Rhino poaching syndicate leader Rajkumar Praja was also targeted but not arrested until January 2015.

Related: For more on the arrests and prosecutions of wildlife traffickers, visit the Wildlife Traffickers section. For more information about syndicate ringleader Rajkumar Praja, visit the Organized Crime & Criminal Syndicates section.

► Operation “Protection of Asian Wildlife Species (PAWS)” (Mid – Late 2014)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: 9 Asian nations and Australia, Canada, Russia, and the United States participate in a coordinated seizure of both live trafficked animals, animal trophies, and illegal timber.

Results: Live birds, crocodiles, lions, leopards, tigers, bears, various monkey species, red pandas, turtles, and tortoises were seized. Rhino horns, 280 kilograms of pangolin scales, 3,500 kilograms of elephant ivory, and 4,000 kilograms of red sandalwood were also confiscated. 160 arrests were made.

► Operation “Amazonas” (March – May 2014)

Organizations: INTERPOL, World Customs Organization.

Background: An Interpol and WCO-backed operation, with the participation of Chinese and Central and South American law enforcement, targeted illegal timber traffickers. Peru Customs had uncovered organized crime operations engaged in several cross-over crimes relating to timber shipments and aiding illegal logging. Illegal logging contributes to an estimated loss of $250 million per year in Peru.

Results: An estimated 15,000+ cubic meters (529,000+ cubic feet) of timber was seized as well as a logging machine and two vessels. The estimated value of the seizures is $20 million.

Operation Cobra II graphic. © CITES, USFWS

Operation Cobra II graphic. © CITES, USFWS

► Operation “COBRA II” (December 2013 – January 2014)

Organizations: ASEAN-WEN, LATF, SA-WEN, USFWS, others.

Background: From 30 December, 2013 through 26 January, 2014 law enforcement in 22 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as the United States, participated in coordinated efforts to crackdown on illegal wildlife products and trafficking. The following multinational groups participated or lead efforts in their respective regions: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SA-WEN), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Read the full evaluation report here (PDF) and the Operation Cobra II press release (PDF).

Results: 26,486 pieces of illegal wildlife products were seized, weighing 111,203.6 kilograms (245,161.97 pounds). The seizures included over 10,000 turtles; over 10,000 European eels; 1,000 endangered species skins; over 3,000 kg (6,600 pounds) of ivory; and 36 rhino horns. More than 200,000 kg (440,924 pounds) of rosewood logs were also seized. Yu Bo, a Chinese national who was caught during the operation and was in possession of pangolin scales and 81 elephant tusks, was sentenced to a fine of 9,781,204,900 Tanzania Shillings ($6.5 million) or 20 years in jail.

► Operation “Spindrift” (2014)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States target illegal abalone trade.

Results: Unknown.

► Operation “Putumayo” (2014)

Organizations: INTERPOL, Peruvian Public Ministry.

Background: Targeted illegal mining and logging along the borders of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.

Results: 20,000 cubic meters (706,000 cubic feet) of timber was seized by authorities, valued at roughly $31 million.

► Operation “Usalama II (Safety/Peace)” (2014)

Organizations: Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO), Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO), INTERPOL.

Background: A far-reaching crackdown on a variety of transnational and cross-border crimes in 24 countries across Eastern and Southern Africa.

Results: Building on the results of the first operation, during 2014 roughly 15,000 kilograms of drugs, 269 firearms and 162 vehicles were seized. Wildlife products, medicine, and counterfeit products were also confiscated. 117 human trafficking victims were rescued.


Operations in 2013

► Operation “Tokomeza Ujangili (End Poaching)” (Late 2013)

Organizations: Tanzanian law enforcement, People’s Defence Forces, and other agencies.

Background: Over 2,000 people (PDF, page 21), largely from Tanzania’s People’s Defence Forces, Police Force, and Anti-poaching Unit, cooperated during the operation. The goal of operation “End Poaching,” also known as “Operation Destroy,” was to curb poaching in protected areas, identify and arrest suspected poachers and organized groups, and seize property of poaching suspects.

Results: Canceled after alleged human rights abuses (PDF, page 8) conducted by Tanzanian authorities which include rape, torture, murder, and illegal seizures of property (including livestock). There were also alleged irregularities within the judicial process with some suspects not being charged with a crime, being charged with a crime without evidence, and some individuals were allegedly tried without being represented in their own trial. Khamis Kagasheki, the Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, also was publicly criticized for saying that “[t]he only way to solve this problem is to execute the killers on the spot” (page 6). Four government ministers were dismissed after a parliamentary inquiry into the crackdown on poaching.

► Operation “Wildcat” (September – October 2013)

Organizations: INTERPOL, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Wildcat Foundation.

Background: Major smuggling networks in East Africa were identified as being involved in trafficking charcoal, elephant ivory, and timber.

Results: The operation resulted in the seizure of over 240 kg (528 pounds) of elephant ivory, 20 kg (44 pounds) of rhino horn, 637 firearms, illicit drugs, 856 timber logs, and a variety of drugs. 660 people were arrested and 44 vehicles seized.

► Operation “Usalama I (Safety/Peace)” (August 2013)

Organizations: Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO), Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO), INTERPOL.

Background: A crackdown on a variety of transnational and cross-border crimes in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Results: Initial results of the operation included the rescue of more than 300 hundred victims of human trafficking, the arrest of 58 individuals suspected of various crimes, confiscation or destruction of illegal drugs. Firearms, over 100 cars, as well as 12 elephant tusks were also seized. By the end of Operation Usalama II at least 184 cars were repatriated (PDF).

► Operation “Lead – Phase II” (Early – Mid 2013)

Agencies: INTERPOL, others.

Video: INTERPOL “Operation Lead” Environmental Crime Program

Background: Law enforcement agencies in Costa Rica and Venezuela follow-up on forestry-related crimes and illegal logging operations previously identified during the first phase of Operation Lead.

Results: 292,000 cubic meters (10,310,000 cubic feet) of wood and wood products were seized, the equivalent of 19,500 truckloads. The initial phase of Operation Lead resulted in 50,000 cubic meters of wood confiscated, worth roughly $8 million, and almost 200 individuals arrested.

► Operation “Prey – Phase IV” (January – ??? 2013)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Tiger and leopard skin bust in Nepal during Operation Prey (Credit: Interpol)

Tiger and leopard skin bust in Nepal during Operation Prey (Credit: Interpol)

Background: Law enforcement agencies in tiger range states cracked down on the illegal trade in leopard and tiger parts and skins, along with other wildlife species. Training workshops on investigating wildlife crime were also provided for Thai and Indian law enforcement.

Results: Between January and the end of July there were 42 arrests made. Live animals, including over 500 parakeets and 600 tortoises and turtles were recovered. 167 kg (367 pounds) of tiger bones and 20 kg (44 pounds) of leopard bones were confiscated. Elephant ivory, rhino horn, and parts from deer and boars were also seized.

► Operation “Eclipse” (May 2013)

Organizations: Australia’s DSEWPaC, DAFF, and state agencies.

Background: State and federal Australian law enforcement continue to act on possible illegal importation of wildlife into the country through legitimate channels.

Results: An undisclosed number of lizards and snakes were seized during a routine inspection. Three pythons and three lizards were euthanized.

► Operation “Wendi” (January – May 2013)

Organizations: International Fund for Animal Welfare, INTERPOL, others.

Video: IFAW-INTERPOL “Operation Wendi” Documentary (English), version Française.

Background: The Central and West African nations of Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Liberia worked together to target illegal ivory and wildlife traffickers.

Results: 222 live crocodiles, parrots, and other animals were seized. 148 animal parts including trophies and elephant trunks, 50 elephant tusks, and almost 4,000 ivory products were seized along with money and military-grade weapons. 66 people were arrested.

Operation Cobra logo. © CITES, USFWS

Operation Cobra graphic. © CITES, USFWS

► Operation “COBRA” (January – February 2013)

Organizations: ASEAN-WEN, LATF, SA-WEN, USFWS, others.

Background: Transnational and organized wildlife crime syndicates were targeted in Africa, Asia, and the United States between 6 January and 5 February, 2013. The following multinational groups participated or lead efforts in their respective regions: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SA-WEN), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). More information available in the Operation Cobra press release (PDF).

Results: A vast array of products from flora and fauna were recovered including roughly 6,500 kg (14,330 pounds) of ivory and 31 kg of meat from elephants; 22 raw rhino horns and 4 carved rhino horns; 800 kg (1,760 pounds) of pangolin scales; 2,600 live snakes; 1,550 kg of shatoosh from an estimated 10,000 Tibetan antelopes (chiru); 324 hornbill beaks; and trophies from 17 tigers or leopards. Roughly 42,000 kg (92,500 pounds) of red sander wood was also seized.


Operations in 2012

► Operation “Enigma – Phase I” (November – December 2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Law enforcement agencies across Europe and Africa disrupted and investigated companies involved in illegal electronic waste transport, recycling, and illegal disposal. Operation Enigma was a successor to Operation Haz (2009-2010).

Results: Over 240,000 kilograms of electrical products and electronic waste was seized.

► Operation “Lead – Phase I” (Late 2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Twelve Central and South American countries targeted forestry-related crimes and illegal logging under “Project Leaf.”

Results: 194 people were arrested, 150 vehicles seized, and over 50,000 cubic meters of timber was confiscated.

► Operation “Prey – Phase III” (September – October 2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Law enforcement in Indonesia and Malaysia targeted illegal wildlife trade and animal products trafficking.

Results: Bushmeat, pangolins, snakes, and tigers were confiscated. A total of 40 live tigers were seized during Operation Prey phases II and III.

► Operation “Prey – Phase II” (September – October 2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Authorities in Bangladesh, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam targeted illegal wildlife trade and animal products trafficking.

Results: Bushmeat, pangolins, snakes, and tigers were seized.

► Operation “Libra” (June – July 2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: A coordinated effort from Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam targeted poaching and illegal trade in pangolins.

Results: Over 40 people were arrested and roughly 200 other investigations are taking place.

Ivory and leopard skins confiscated during Operation Worthy. © Interpol.

Ivory and leopard skins confiscated during Operation Worthy. © Interpol.

► Operation “Worthy” (Mid 2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Video: INTERPOL-IFAW “Operation Worthy” documentary (English)

Background: Over 320 officers across 14 African nations participated in a coordinated operation targeting criminal organizations involved in wildlife parts and live animal trafficking. Operation Worthy was succeeded in 2015 by Operation Worthy II.

Results: Nearly 2,000 kg of ivory, over 20 kg of rhino horn, and numerous G3s, M16s, and AK-47s were seized. Wildlife trophies including big cat skins and reptile skins were also seized, along with live birds and turtles.

► Operation “Cage” (Mid 2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: In a concerted effort 32 countries throughout Central America, South America, and Europe targeted the illegal trade in birds as pets and bird parts.

Results: 4,000 people were arrested during the operation. Over 8,700 birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles were seized along with other plants, animals, and animal products including elephant ivory. Weapons, ammunition, and trapping equipment were also confiscated.

Zambian poacher and trafficker. Photo: ZAWA/LATF

Zambian poacher and trafficker. Photo: ZAWA/LATF

► Operation “KINGSTONE” (April 2012)

Organizations: LATF and ZAWA.

Background: The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) coordinated over a 10-day period to catch two high-profile Zambians involved in poaching and ivory trafficking.

Results: The two poachers, wanted for over 10 years by Zambian authorities, were arrested and a .375 rifle and an AK-47 rifle were confiscated along with ammunition. 42 pieces of ivory weighing 629.0 kg (1,386.7 pounds) and 7 kg (15.4 pounds).

► Operation “Prey” (2012)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Bhutanese, Chinese, and Indian authorities crack down on criminal groups trafficking trophies from tigers, leopards, rhinoceroses, and elephants. The variety of animals, animal parts, and plants recovered emphasized the nature of cross-over crimes within criminal organizations.

Results: Almost 40 individuals were arrested and a variety of wildlife parts were recovered, including sea-life and plants.


► Operation “Shocktake” (December 2011)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai law enforcement agencies seeking illegal animal parts and meat conducted coordinated raids and inspections on dozens of markets, shops, and restaurants within their areas of operation.

Seizures from Operation Bonaparte. © Australian Department of Environment

Seizures from Operation Bonaparte. © Australian Department of Environment

Results: Officers from India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau arrested 10 individuals and investigated 37 shops, confiscating a variety of illegal wildlife products. Indonesian National Police’s Specialized Crime Department arrested 4 people and seized firearms and suspected orangutan bones. Law enforcement from Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks made 4 arrests after inspecting 21 restaurants and shops, one of which had been selling alleged boar, civet, and porcupine meats. Details of Thailand Police Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division’s investigation of the known illegal wildlife trafficking market in Bangkok called Chatuchak Market has not been elaborated upon.

► Operation “Bonaparte” (August 2011)

Organizations: Australia’s DSEWPaC; Customs and Border Protection Service.

Background: Australian law enforcement acted on 3 August based on intelligence gathered from extensive investigation and monitoring of a residence in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.

Results: Nearly 400 wildlife products were seized, most or all of which were believed to be illegally acquired or illegal to own due to being from protected species. An array of animal skulls were seized including those from a bear, lion, and orangutan. Full skins from a lynx and Alaskan wolf were also recovered, as were ivory products and scrimshaw.

► Operation “CETUS” (May – ??? 2011)

Organizations: AELERT.

Background: Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators neTwork (AELERT) conducted close monitoring and overflights of individuals near, or interacting with, whales to protect migrating whales and insure they go undisturbed.

Results: Unknown.

► Operation “Western Mansion” (January 2011)

Organizations: LATF, ZPS, and ZAWA.

Background: A five-day operation conducted by officers from the Zambia Police Service (ZPS) and Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), and coordinated by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force. Suspected wildlife trafficking in the towns of Gweembe and Sesheke in Southwest Zambia were targeted.

Results: Two suspects were arrested and roughly 56 kg (123.5 pounds) of semi-worked elephant ivory was seized. 48 live leopard tortoises and about 47 kg of bushmeat (103.6 pounds) were also confiscated.


Operations in 2010

► Operation “RAMP” (September – October 2010)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: 51 countries around the world coordinated efforts to detect and stop trafficking and illegal transport of amphibians and reptiles by crime syndicates. Compliance of lawful trade was also assessed. This operation served as a foundation for on-going anti-trafficking efforts by individual nations’ customs and law enforcement agencies.

Results: Hundreds of individuals were investigated or charged with crimes relating to trafficking wildlife. Live animals and wildlife products worth €25 million ($33.18 million) were seized.

► Operation “Tigre” (August – September 2010)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Six tiger range countries in mainland Asia collaborated to disrupt trade routes and syndicates involved in the illegal tiger trade.

Results: Roughly 25 individuals were arrested and 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of tiger bones were seized.

► Operation “Haz 2” (August 2010)

Organizations: Environment Canada, Environmental Protection Agency, INTERPOL, U.S. Department of Transportation, and others.

Background: During the two-day operation illegal transport or disposal of hazardous materials were investigated along major transport routes in Michigan (United States), New York (United States), and Ontario (Canada).

Results: Unknown.

► Operation “Mogatle” (May 2010)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Nearly two hundred law enforcement officers in six Southern African countries raided and investigated markets and shops thought to be selling wildlife products made from protected species. Sniffer dogs and border check points were utilized during the crack-down on potential traffickers.

Results: During the two-day operation almost 400 kg (880 pounds) of ivory and rhino horn were recovered and one illegal ivory carving factory was shut down. 41 people were arrested across all six countries.

► Operation “TRAM” (February 2010)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Officials in 18 countries targeted illegal trade in traditional medicines that contained, or alleged to contain, wildlife products from protected species.

Results: During the 28-day operation over €10 million ($13.27 million) worth of illegal medicines were seized.


► Operation “Haz” (2009)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Unknown.

Results: Unknown.

► Operation “Costa” (November 2009)

Organizations: INTERPOL, others.

Background: Law enforcement from the East African nations of Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda participated in coordinated efforts relating to stemming illegal wildlife trade with a focus on ivory.

Results: Over 100 people were arrested and roughly 1,500 kg (3,300 pounds) of elephant ivory were sized along with hundreds of other wildlife products.


► Operation “Baba” (November 2008)

Organizations: ICPO-INTERPOL, KWS, LATF, ZAWA, others.

Background: Named after Ghanian Wildlife Ranger Gilbert Baba, who was killed by illegal wildlife traders, Operation Baba saw officers in Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia crack down on the trafficking of illegal ivory and wildlife products.

Results: 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds) of elephant ivory was recovered and nearly 60 arrests were made. In Brazzaville, Republic of Congo 774 pieces of worked ivory weighing a total of 18.75 kg (41.33 pounds) were seized and 3 people arrested. Roughly 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of ivory, along with an estimated $350,000 worth of crocodile skin bags, were confiscated in Ghana. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Police, and LATF made 36 arrests and recovered 113 pieces of ivory weighing 358 kg (789 pounds) as well as 27 animal skins across the country. 44 kg (97 pounds) of ivory, 23 pieces of elephant molars, and 13 pieces of worked ivory were seized in Uganda, with one Italian national and 5 others arrested. Zambia Police, Zambia Wildlife Authority, and others apprehended multiple individuals, followed a number of leads, seized 10 kg of ivory tusks, and took down a regional ivory trafficking gang. Subsequent sub-operations by LATF-ZAWA may have been related to Operation Baba.


Historical Operations

► Operation “Stronghold” (1984-1993)

Organizations: Zimbabwe’s Department of Parks and Wild Life Management (ZimParks), National Police.

Background: Central and East Africa lost an estimated 50,000 rhinoceroses from the late 1960s to 1980, most of the continent’s population. Zambia’s rhino went locally extinct and poachers turned to adjacent regions to acquire rhino horn for Middle Eastern and Chinese buyers with the horn trafficked through Burundi. In response to a “serious” increase in border crossings by poachers since 1983 (page 26) anti-poaching rangers and armed law enforcement in Zimbabwe engaged poachers using a government-backed “shoot to kill” policy implemented in 1985. Many of the poachers were crossing illegally from Zambia into the country’s north to kill rhino and were paid $300 per kilogram before the policy and up to $800 afterwards (Killing For Profit, page 20). The Zambezi Valley and areas around Lake Kariba, which forms a natural border between the countries, were most effected.

Results: According to Killing For Profit the first two years of the operation the new policy resulted in the deaths of 29 poachers and a further 22 captured, however the number of rhinos poached continued to escalate. The United States provided $532,000 ($1.18 million in 2015 dollars) in financial aid to support Zimbabwe’s rhino conservation and park protection between 1980 and 1985. During the roughly ten-year-long operation approximately 170 poachers were killed and 4 rangers lost their lives, along with all the rhino in the Zambezi Valley (Killing For Profit, page 21). Criticism of the “shoot to kill” policy and concern from human rights organizations added pressure, but the failure to stem the poaching eventually saw Operation Stronghold ended. As part of the operation, between roughly 1983 and March 1988 there were 233 rhino translocated (page 26) out of the Zambezi Valley, with a few going to American and German zoos. However as the poaching crisis continued throughout the 1990s the remaining rhino living in Zimbabwe’s beautiful national parks bordering Zambia were translocated to safer locales, but would continue to suffer from home-grown poaching, park mismanagement, and corruption.

Operation “Stronghold” Results (1980-1993)

1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 Total
Rhino Poached 0 0 0 0 19 71 159 184 141 126 172 153 105 4 1134
Elephant Poached 8 3 14 17 43 45 49 42 24 32 104 71 89 8 549
Ivory Recovered 10 5 20 30 71 30 40 46 11 30 40 43 52 10 438
Rhino Horn Recovered 0 0 0 0 0 23 31 22 28 50 101 51 31 0 337
Poachers Killed 0 3 0 0 0 7 11 18 29 29 24 18 28 2 169
Poachers Captured 0 1 1 1 0 8 11 10 11 6 17 16 8 1 91
Poachers Wounded 1 1 0 1 0 5 4 4 5 7 8 3 10 0 49
Poachers Escaped 3 4 1 2 1 3 11 6 21 49 129 111 83 11 435
Incursions 3 3 1 2 7 62 52 76 84 93 144 181 165 19 892
Contacts 1 3 1 1 4 8 26 29 28 24 55 27 59 5 271
Weapons Recovered 1 2 5 1 0 4 16 14 20 17 29 20 14 17 160
Ammunition Recovered 0 0 0 0 2 65 533 2203 917 967 1264 1861 1297 180 9289
Staff Members Wounded 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 1 5
Staff Members Killed 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 4


Chart source: The Rhino Anti Poaching War Rages On, October 2011.

► Operation “Uhai (Life)” (1989 – 1990)

Organizations: Tanzania People’s Defence Forces, Police Force, Wildlife Department.

Background: Lasting 6 or more months, Operation Uhai was a large-scale anti-poaching operation targeting poachers and organized crime syndicates after the rampant poaching and elephant population decline experienced by East Africa from 1979-1989.

Results: Over 2,000 people were arrested (page 5) and 10,000 firearms were confiscated.