Interpol just announced the results of an enormous illegal wildlife bust. “Operation Thunderstorm” that took place in May, targeted crime syndicates in 92 countries and resulted in the arrest of hundreds of traffickers and the seizure of millions of dollars of contraband.

rex shutterstock elephant, Illegal Wildlife Bust


Operation Thunderstorm

  • The seizures included: 43 tonnes of wild meat (including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra)
  • 1.3 tonnes of raw and processed elephant ivory; 27,000 reptiles (including 869 alligators/crocodiles, 9,590 turtles and 10,000 snakes)
  • Almost 4,000 birds, including pelicans, ostriches, parrots and owls
  • 48 live primates
  • 14 big cats (tiger, lion, leopard and jaguar) and the carcasses of seven bears, including two polar bears

Pangolins were part of the illegal wildlife bust

Adrian Steirn illegally trafficked pangolins zimbabwe cropPlus over eight tones of pangolin scales: see our article: llegally Trafficked Pangolins, world’s most wanted animal! (photo – Adrian Steirn)

“The results are spectacular,” said Sheldon Jordan, Canada’s director general of wildlife enforcement, also noting that this took a bite out of the $150 billion annual proceeds from illegal global wildlife crime.

In Interpol’s illegal wildlife bust they identified 1400 suspects including flight attendants, ship’s captains and illegal hunters as reported in EcoWatch.

“By revealing 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—Operation Thunderstorm sends a clear message to wildlife criminals that the world’s law enforcement community is homing in on them,” said Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General.


donkey illegal wildlife bust skinsWhere are the Disappearing Donkeys?

China of course. Donkeys have been the helpmates of the poor for many millennium, carrying water and goods. And they remain so to today in countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia, however, they are disappearing by the millions, leaving owners distressed and bewildered. Donkeys are being rustled, stolen, highjacked and slaughtered for their skin.

A bizarre health remedy made from the gelatin of boiled donkey skins called ejiao, has the consistency of thick Jell-O and is being marketed in China as a general wellness product. Of course, its not wellness if you are a poor donkey.


The Chinese Black Market

rhino illegal wildlife bustWe should all be happy to see the new prosperity developing in Chinese society that has lifted many out of poverty, but along with this wealth comes the cash to fuel an insatiable appetite for “traditional medicine.”

Plus a lot of quackery that is endangering species around the world from rhinos and tigers in Africa and Asia, to vaquitas and totoabas in the Gulf of Mexico, to pangolins, eels and now donkeys everywhere in between.



Illegal Crime Syndicates

dried totoaba swim bladders in chinese herbal medicine market anthony wallace aft-getty, vaquita marine protected areaMost of this is fueled by illegal crime syndicates that invent a need and then offer a supply at vastly inflated prices. Remember the dried totoaba swim bladders that sell for $20,000 a kilo on the black market in China.

Hand in hand with growing prosperity there has to be a social awareness of the effects that Chinese “traditional medicine” products are having on the world’s wildlife. We have discussed the good work that Chinese celebrities like the actor, Jackie Chan, the pop singer “Angle Baby” and our good friend Sharon Kwok are doing. But China has a huge population and the problem is just as large. (photo – Anthony Wallace)

The Chinese government has cracked down on some areas of this trade, when the international storm comes crashing down around their ears as it has on rhino horn and elephant ivory and even for pangolins.

For the poor donkeys that has not yet happened, most recently the Chinese government has reduced the import tax on donkey skins even when faced with growing international concern over their shrinking population. Numbers of donkeys in China dropped from 11 million in 1990 to 3 million in 2017. Now the demand has turned to Africa where the population of donkeys has begun to decrease dramatically. A situation that has led Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal to all ban donkey exports to China as reported by BBC.

By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network


See These Related Blue Ocean Articles:

Top Ocean Stories of 2017, Part 1: Endangered Species, Good and Bad News
Population Plummets for World’s most Endangered Penquin!
2017: A Bad Year for Whales
Vaquita Rescue Update!
China, Mexico and U.S. join in effort to save the Vaquita
International Save The Vaquita Day
Illegal Trafficking of Wildlife: What You Need To Know!
The Endangerment of the Endangered Species Act
Saving the Iconic and Endangered Nassau Grouper
World Sea Turtle Day: Turtles Face Environmental and Political Threats


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