Global police in ‘huge’ wildlife contraband haul: Europol
Global police have seized “huge amounts” of wildlife contraband, including some 12 tons of ivory, as well as rhino horn and whale bones, in a massive operation across 62 countries, Europol said Thursday.
“Operation COBRA III, the biggest ever coordinated international law enforcement operation targeting the illegal trade in endangered species, has led to the recovery of a huge amount of wildlife contraband,” Europe’s police agency said in a statement.
In a separate statement issued in Bangkok, one of the operations’ organizers, the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN- WEN) said COBRA III resulted in at least 300 arrests.
This included “kingpins and over 600 seizures of assorted wildlife contraband,” it said.
Eight suspected kingpins arrested included a Chinese national involved in Namibia’s biggest rhino horn smuggling case and a notorious elephant poacher in India, it added.
The two-month-long operation involving 62 European, African, American and Asian states saw police seize 119 rhino horns, with 11,439 dead and live specimens recovered in Europe alone, Europol said from its Hague-based headquarters.
It included 16 whale ribs in the Netherlands, 20 kilograms of live leeches in Bulgaria and 10,000 dead seahorses and 400 live tortoises and turtles in the UK and 300 in Croatia.
In Thailand, police seized more than four tons of ivory hidden in containers originating in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The shipping of ivory has been banned since 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
In India, nearly 11,000 kilograms of suspected tigers’ bones were found.
Chinese and German police meanwhile confiscated around 800 cacti plants, while 50 kilograms of unworked ivory were found in France.
“Investigations continue many countries,” Europol said.
Europol, who supported the operation said COBRA III was organized by ASEAN-WEN and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, consisting of seven African countries.
Said Europol’s director Rob Wainwright: “The trafficking of endangered species remains a problem in the EU and beyond.”
“Operation COBRA III once again shows the true global dimension of these crimes,” Wainwright said.
“We will continue our efforts to fight these cruel crimes, to ensure a safe environment for endangered species in Europe and all over the world,” he said.