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January 06, 2012

Cooperation Leads to Bust of Illegal Wildlife Trafficking

There’s some big news on the wildlife trafficking front today, with the arrest of a dozen individuals in California and Nevada as part of an enforcement action made possible in part by the work of HSUS volunteers, who cooperated with federal wildlife police and scoured the Web to find people illegally trafficking in wildlife and wildlife parts.

Tiger cubs in snow
iStockphoto

Poaching and wildlife trafficking constitute forms of cruelty to wild animals. And they’re bigger and more pernicious than just about anybody realizes. In the U.S. alone, wildlife officials estimate that tens of millions of animals are killed illegally each year, with the global value of the illegal trade in wildlife estimated to exceed 10 billion dollars annually. It’s exceeded, in terms of illegal commerce, only by the drug trade and arms trading.

Being a wildlife cop is one of the most dangerous jobs in the law enforcement profession, and the agencies that employ these brave wildlife agents are starved for resources, especially now as states are cutting budgets. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency responsible for enforcing federal wildlife protection laws, has just 261 special agents and 122 wildlife inspectors to cover the entire country and its ports.

That’s why The HSUS works to support enforcement by offering rewards in poaching cases, campaigning for stronger laws and providing resources to put these laws to work, and organizing a citizens’ anti-poaching network (learn how you can get involved if you live in California). We work closely with law enforcement to assist in animal cruelty cases, animal fighting raids, and natural disasters, and our nationwide anti-poaching campaign builds on that cooperative approach.

Today, we announced a collaborative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to crack down on the illegal trade in wildlife. We assisted the agency with an investigation known as Operation Cyberwild, which uncovered illegal online sales of dozens of wildlife items—including a rug made from an endangered tiger, a footstool made from elephant skin, and a leopard skin. A team of specially-trained HSUS volunteers in California searched to identify potential violations, which they then passed on to a team of federal and state agents. Twelve defendants were charged as a result, including federal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

We look forward to working with law enforcement agencies on future investigations. All of us can help this broader effort by not buying wildlife products in the marketplace.

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