The illegal ivory trade is the biggest threat to elephants in the wild.
Between 1979 and 1989, the worldwide demand for ivory caused elephant populations to decline to dangerously low levels.
In 1990, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) introduced a ban on international ivory sales.
However, since 2004, sales of illegal ivory have been escalating and in the last few months, tons of ivory have been seized by the authorities.
In 2008, the population of another big animal species, the rhinoceros, was severely decimated. During that year, rhinoceros poaching in Africa substantially increased, reaching unprecedented levels.
This increase was driven by the illegal trade of rhinoceros horns. This situation represents a major call for action to strengthen international law enforcement to combat the illegal trade of ivory and rhinoceros horns.
At INTERPOL, we have created a strong and ambitious initiative to conserve elephants and rhinos through Project WISDOM.
Project WISDOM supports and enhances the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of elephants and rhinoceros.
The Project has three aims:
- Organize collaborative, high-level international efforts to improve political will;
- Transform this will into departmental support;
- Train officers in the necessary skills.
The Project will call upon countries to establish National Environmental Task Forces that will be connected regionally and internationally through INTERPOL National Central Bureaus. These task forces will encourage the use of modern intelligence-led enforcement practices for elephant and rhinoceros conservation.
- Encourage communication, cooperation and collaboration with respect to intelligence exchange, cross-border investigations, and better training;
- Contribute to the apprehension of criminals and organized groups;
- Development of a global picture of the criminal activity affecting the ongoing conservation of elephants and rhinoceros.
A global objective is to help develop effective governance and rule of law and improve the quality of criminal justice response to this type of crime.
This is an ambitious, ongoing project continuously seeking support from individuals, organizations and institutions.
If you are interested in helping us protect these wild animals, please contact us.
We will conduct seminars for senior level law enforcement representatives from countries where the illegal activities and environmental incidents have been identified.
The aim is to empower and instil ownership of the issue into the entire departmental structure.
Local authorities need to consider that responding to wildlife crime is their common and unchallenged role. Linking wildlife crime to issues associated with national security, economy and health is fundamental to achieving this result.
INTERPOL activities related to the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horns started in 2008.
Four of the operations – Baba, Costa, Mogatle and Ahmed – resulted in the arrests of 254 individuals. The conviction rate exceeded 80 per cent and tens of thousands of carved ivory items were recovered, along with around three tons of raw ivory.
- INTERPOL Abidjan Training, 29 October - 3 November 2012
This INTERPOL initiative offered training for law enforcement officials on suppressing crimes against protected wildlife. Police and wildlife officers from 10 francophone African countries participated in the six-day training course at INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
- Operation Worthy, March - April 2012:
INTERPOL’s largest ever transnational operation targeting criminal organizations behind the illegal trafficking of ivory has resulted in more than 200 arrests and the seizure of nearly two tons of contraband elephant ivory
This operation has involved 14 countries across Eastern, Southern and Western Africa and has resulted in the recovery of more than 20 kilos of rhinoceros horn in addition to lion, leopard and cheetah pelts, crocodile and python skins, live tropical birds, turtles, and other protected species destined to be illegally trafficked around the world. Firearms including AK-47s, G3s and M16s were also seized by law enforcement officers.
More than 320 officers from a range of agencies including police, customs, environmental protection agencies, veterinary services, airport security, ministries of tourism and national prosecuting authorities took part in Operation Worthy which saw interventions carried out at markets, ports, shops, border crossings and during roadside checks.
Countries which participated in Operation Worthy: Ethiopia, Botswana, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
- INTERPOL Botswana Training, 22-27 August 2011
This initiative offered training for law enforcement officials in how to combat the illegal wildlife trade. Police and wildlife officers from 10 countries participated in the six-day training course, comprising classes, exercises and drills.
The curriculum was put together by experts from Environment Canada and INTERPOL, with the initiative strongly supported by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Read the training news story (29 August 2011)
- Operation Ahmed, 2010
Operation Ahmed commemorated an Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority ranger who was murdered in the line of duty at Awash National Park, Ethiopia, in June 2010.
Two "action day" operations targeted elephant ivory traffickers and rhinoceros horn dealers in the three participating countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
Authorities were able to obtain DNA analysis of the ivory seized, which provided relatively accurate information regarding the origins of the ivory.
- Operation Mogatle, 2010
Operation Mogatle assessed the legality of ivory dealing operations in South Africa, and shut down dealers found to be operating illegally.
Endangered Species coordinators compiled their operational plans and gathered intelligence regarding dealers in ivory products and rhino horn. All identified individuals and their premises were visited to establish the legality of their activities and dismantle operations any illegal activities.
Nearly 400 kilos of ivory and rhino horn were seized and 41 people arrested.
Read the Mogatle media release (18 May 2010)
- Operation Costa, 2009
Operation Costa involved officers from police, wildlife, customs and intelligence agencies from six countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Officers carried out inspections and raids on shops and markets, in addition to checks of suspect vehicles at border crossing points. As well as illegal elephant ivory, other wildlife products, such as leopard skins, were seized. Weapons, ammunition and vehicles were also confiscated.
More than two tons of illegal ivory were seized and more than 100 individuals arrested.
Read the Costa media release (30 November 2009)
- Project Adan, 2006
The criminal intelligence analysis initiative, Project Adan, studied major ivory seizures that occurred in 2005. It provided good information regarding individuals and syndicates involved in this trade.
The analysis also provided information about the structure and dynamics of these syndicates, and enough evidence to verify that this type of trafficking conforms to established definitions of organized crime. Some of the subjects identified by Project Adan have INTERPOL Red Notices seeking their arrest.
Message from President Robert B. Zoellick of the World Bank Group
- UK DEFRA
- UK National Wildlife Crime Unit
Tiger-range countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Kenya and South Africa will also act as champion (mentoring) countries.