A joint INTERPOL – World Customs Organization (WCO) law enforcement operation has seen hundreds of arrests and the disruption of wildlife and timber crime networks globally.
Codenamed “Thunder 2022”, the month-long (3-30 October) operation brought together police, customs, financial intelligence units, wildlife and forestry enforcement agencies from 125 countries, the largest number of countries to take part in a Thunder operation since the series started in 2017. Through routine inspections and targeted controls, hundreds of parcels, suitcases, vehicles, boats and cargo transporters were examined, often with the use of sniffer dogs and X-ray scanners. Searches at land and air border checkpoints focused on illegally traded species protected by national legislation or CITES. CITES is an international agreement to ensure that trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. All trade performed in breach of CITES is illegal. Seizures ranged from timber to live animals, as well as animal parts, bushmeat, and derivatives such as clothing, beauty products, food items, traditional medicines and handicrafts. Although operational results are still being reported, Operation Thunder 2022 has so far seen almost 2,200 seizures and the identification of 934 suspects, triggering a series of worldwide arrests and investigations linked to illegal trading, processing, exporting and importing of protected wildlife and forestry products. In addition to the identification of 141 companies suspected of engaging in illegal sales, total worldwide seizures of protected animals and plants so far include:
• 119 big cats and other felines
• 34 primates, 136 primate body parts
• 25 rhino horns
• 9 pangolins, 389 kg pangolin scales and derivatives
• 750 birds, more than 450 bird parts
With seizures reported in units, or total kg, according to national police practices, results also include:
• Almost 780 kg and 516 pieces elephant ivory, and 27 elephant body parts
• 1,795 reptiles and almost half a tonne reptile parts and derivative products
• 4,337 and 2,813 kg marine products, including corals, eels and sea cucumbers
• 1,190 turtles and tortoises, 1,304 units and 8 kg body parts
• More than a tonne and 17,081 units other wildlife, parts and derivatives.
Plants and timber:
• 47,28 m3 rosewood and 17,163 pieces
• Almost 47,000 m3 and 6,764 pieces other timber
• 710 cacti, 125 and 1,706 kg orchids
• Almost 3.5 tonnes and 7,815 units other plants
• More than five tonnes and 3,945 units plant derivatives.