Wildlife Smugglers: Operation Cobra III Exotic Animal Smuggling Crackdown Deemed Huge Success

Wildlife smugglers were netted by Operation Cobra III. Hundreds of illegal wildlife trafficking suspects were arrested in a coordinated animal smuggling sting. Exotic animal smuggling is big business on an international scale. The suspects were reportedly caught with a “huge” amount of rhino horn, whale bones, ivory, and various other types of contraband in Asia and Europe.

Law enforcement officers in more than 60 countries converged upon the alleged wildlife smugglers during March and May. The illegal wildlife trafficking operation was deemed the “biggest ever coordinated international law enforcement operation targeting the illegal trade in endangered species” yielded by Europol officials.

Operation Cobra III was organized in part by the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network. The group told the media that more than 600 wildlife contraband seizures and at least 300 arrests occurred by the completion of the animal smuggling operation.

The smuggling of exotic animals suspects reportedly include “kingpins” such as a Chinese national who is allegedly involved with the largest rhino horn smuggling and elephant poaching case in India. European police recovered 11,439 live and dead “specimens” including 10,000 dead seahorses, 400 tortoises, and 44 pounds of live leeches.

Seahorses are reportedly “prized” animals for aquariums and are often used in medicines and for ornaments. Approximately 20 million seahorses are traded for “traditional Chinese medicine” each year, according to the Endangered Species International organization.

Law enforcement officers in Spain seized 90 kilos of animal horns, animal heads, and coral. An additional 25 kilograms of coral were seized in Bulgaria. Approximately 11,000 kilos of suspected tiger bones were seized in India. Wildlife smugglers were reportedly caught with 50 kilograms of “unworked” ivory in France. Illegal animal trafficking suspects were reportedly found with 16 whale ribs in the Netherlands.

Police in Thailand found more than four tons of ivory hidden inside shipping containers originating in the Democratic Republic of Congo during Operation Cobra III. A week after the containers of ivory destined for Laos were seized, Thai police seized approximately three tons of ivory that was being shipped from Kenya to Laos.

Ivory has been banned from shipment since the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora passed new regulations in 1989.

“The trafficking of endangered species remains a problem in the EU and beyond,” Europol’s director Rob Wainwright said.”Operation COBRA III once again shows the true global dimension of these crimes.”

What do you think about the massive arrests of wildlife smugglers and Operation Cobra III?

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