INTERPOL targets illegal trade in wildlife medical products
5th March 2010—a month-long operation targeting the illegal trade in medicines containing protected wildlife products has resulted in arrests worldwide and the seizure of thousands of illegal products worth more than EUR10 million.
INTERPOL co-ordinated Operation Tram, which involved national wildlife enforcement authorities, police, customs and specialized units from 18 countries across all five continents. In Italy alone, officers from the Corpo Forestalle dello Stato made more than 30,000 seizures.
The operation, which ran throughout February, involved investigations into individuals and companies as well as inspections of premises such as seaports and wholesalers.
Many of the seized medicines contained or were marketing the use of illegal ingredients such as tiger, bear and rhinoceros.
“A primary goal of Operation Tram was to combat the illegal trade in endangered wildlife, which is a threat to our planet’s biodiversity and demonstrates the commitment of INTERPOL and its member countries in fighting this type of crime,” said David Higgins, Manager of the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme.
“This operation has again proved that while environmental criminals may cross borders and display high levels of organization, so too will the international law enforcement community in its efforts to apprehend those criminals.
“The success of this operation would not have been possible without the close co-operation and dedication of the police, customs, wildlife law enforcement agencies and specialized units in the 18 participating countries,” added Higgins.
The operation was co-ordinated by the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme with strong support from the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and was developed in response to the increasing use of endangered and protected wildlife products in traditional medicines throughout the world.
“The important cultural, historical and religious values of traditional medicines is recognized by the law enforcement community,” said Chief Constable Richard Crompton, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead for the UK NWCU, “However, the increased use of endangered species in medicines can no longer be tolerated as it places extreme pressure on their very survival and existence.”
TRAFFIC has undertaken a number of studies into the use of threatened species in medicinal products, and has published a guide to Traditional Asian Medicine Identification Guide for Law Enforcers, the latest version in 2004.
Countries involved in Operation Tram were Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Georgia, India, Italy, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.