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05 March 2010 - Media release

INTERPOL co-ordinated operation targets illegal trade in wildlife medical products

LYON, France - An international operation co-ordinated by INTERPOL targeting the illegal trade in traditional medicines containing protected wildlife products has resulted in a series of arrests worldwide and the seizure of thousands of illegal medicines worth more than EUR 10 million.

National wildlife enforcement authorities, police, customs and specialized units from 18 countries across all five continents worked together as part of Operation Tram which ran from 1-28 February.

During the month-long operation, investigations into individuals and companies as well as inspections of premises such as seaports and wholesalers revealed a large amount of medicines either containing or 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 Mr Higgins.

The operation, co-ordinated by the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme with strong support from the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), 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.”

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.

Investigations are continuing and the final results of Operation Tram will be released upon their conclusion.  For additional information on national activities, please contact the enforcement agencies of the countries concerned.