More than 10,000 wild animals and their parts were seized in Operation Thunderball, a massive anti-smuggling campaign coordinated by two of the world’s largest enforcement agencies.
The operation, conducted by Interpol and the World Customs Organization over 26 days in June, spanned 109 countries and was the “most widespread wildlife crime raid” ever organized, National Geographic reported.
Interpol said on Wednesday that more than 1,800 seizures and two dozen arrests were made during the operation. More than 600 suspects were identified, the organization said, and “further arrests and prosecutions are anticipated.”
Interpol and the World Customs Organization worked closely with local police, as well as customs and environmental officers, to conduct the raids. Among the animals recovered were 23 live primates, including an infant langur smuggled from Bangladesh that was discovered by Indian environmental police, and 30 big cats, including a white tiger cub found in a van in Mexico.
More than 10,000 turtles and tortoises, some 4,300 birds and thousands of wildlife parts, including elephant tusks, rhino horns and pangolin, were also seized.
The pangolin has earned the ignominious title of world’s most trafficked mammal because of a baseless belief in the medicinal powers of its scales. This myth has fueled widespread poaching and smuggling of the scaly, anteater-like creature.
According to Interpol, Nigerian officials intercepted about a half-ton of pangolin scales that had been en route to Asia. Two dead pangolins smuggled from Cameroon were also found in Montreal, The Canadian Press reported, noting that it was the first time Canadian authorities had ever made a seizure of the rare creature.