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The illegal ivory trade is the biggest threat to elephants in the wild.

The issues

Between 1970 and 1989, the worldwide demand for ivory caused elephant populations to decline to dangerously low levels.

In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibited international commercial trade in all elephant ivory.

However, since 2010, record numbers of elephants have been reported poached, and record amounts of contraband ivory have been seized by authorities, each year surpassing the previous. 

Since 2008, African and Asian rhinoceros populations have also been experiencing unprecedented intensification of poaching. Two sub-species, the Northern White Rhinoceros and the Western Black Rhinoceros, have been shot into extinction during the past five years.

This situation represents a major call for action for the international law enforcement community to combat the illegal trade of ivory and rhinoceros horns.

The response

Project Wisdom supports and enhances the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of elephants and rhinoceros.

Among others, the project has the following core objectives:

  • Encourage communication, cooperation and collaboration with respect to intelligence exchange, cross-border investigations and training courses;
  • Contribute to the apprehension of criminals and organized groups;
  • Develop a global picture of the criminal activity hindering the ongoing conservation of elephants and rhinoceros;
  • Reduce wildlife crime in Africa;
  • Support and coordinate law enforcement operations;
  • Provide case-oriented assistance;
  • Emphasize deterrence as well as intelligence-led law enforcement;
  • Contribute to broader civil objectives.

A global objective is to help develop effective governance and rule of law and improve the quality of the criminal justice response to this type of crime. The aim is to empower and instil ownership of the issue into the entire departmental structure. Linking wildlife crime to issues associated with national security, economy and health is fundamental to achieving this result.

Project Wisdom also works to assure a more comprehensive application of law enforcement resources, such as improvements in governance and rule of law. Trafficking in ivory and rhinoceros horn has become intimately linked to issues involving national security, and social and economic stability.

Operational support

Since 2008, INTERPOL has coordinated seven operations targeting ivory and rhinoceros horn traffickers – Baba, Costa, Mogatle, Ahmed, Worthy, Wendi and Wildcat – which collectively resulted in the arrests of 1,180 persons charged with ivory and rhinoceros horn-related offences.

Two ivory factories were identified and shut-down, conviction rates exceeded 80 per cent, and the operations recovered more than five tons of raw ivory and around 50,000 carved ivory items such as bracelets, signature seals and cigarette holders. Twenty kilograms of rhinoceros horn were seized in Operation Worthy alone.

Large numbers of live parrots and crocodiles, big cat pelts, snake and crocodile skins, bushmeat and other illegal wildlife products were also seized, along with non-wildlife contraband, including illegal military firearms such as AK-47s, G3s and M16s.

 

Project Wisdom - news
07 October 2014

INTERPOL announces formation of dedicated environmental crime team in Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – To further support its member countries in the fight against illegal ivory trafficking and other environmental issues, INTERPOL has established a dedicated team to tackle these crimes in Africa.Located within the INTERPOL Regional Bureau for East Africa in Nairobi, the environmental crime team will act as an extension of INTERPOL’s Enviro...
19 September 2014

INTERPOL holds wildlife crime training in Namibia

WATERBERG, Namibia – INTERPOL has conducted a wildlife crime training course in Namibia to enhance the skills of the country’s police and government officials in effective enforcement of environmental laws.Some 19 participants from the Namibia Police Protected Resources Unit and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism attended the week-long training sessi...
24 June 2014

Illegal trade in wildlife and timber products finances criminal and militia groups, threatening security and sustainable development

NAIROBI, Kenya (24 June) -Global environmental crime, worth up to USD213 billion each year, is helping finance criminal, militia and terrorist groups and threatening the security and sustainable development of many nations, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL.The Environmental Crime Crisis, a rapid r...
25 February 2014

Response to elephant poaching and ivory trafficking focus of new INTERPOL report

NAIROBI, Kenya – With record levels of global ivory seizures in 2013, a new INTERPOL report highlights the need for greater information sharing to enable a more proactive and effective law enforcement response against trafficking syndicates.The report, produced by INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit, also highlights the need for increased intelligence...
06 December 2013

Nepal requests INTERPOL Red Notice for wanted rhino poacher

LYON, France – At the request of Nepal, INTERPOL has issued a Red Notice, or international wanted persons alert, for Rajkumar Praja wanted for rhino poaching and trading internationally in rhino horns.The 30-year-old Nepalese national is wanted to serve a sentence of 15 years for poaching rhinos in the Chitwan National Park, and the Red Notice comes after...
29 November 2013

Ivory and illegal timber seized in INTERPOL-coordinated operation across Africa

LYON, France – More than 240 kg of elephant ivory and 856 timber logs have been seized and 660 people arrested during an INTERPOL-coordinated operation combating ivory trafficking and illegal logging across Southern and Eastern Africa.As part of INTERPOL’s Project Wisdom and Project Leaf, the operation jointly targeted ivory smuggling and illegal logging,...
19 July 2013

INTERPOL testing of tusk DNA from seized ivory in Sri Lanka to help combat wildlife crime

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – DNA samples from 359 elephant tusks seized in Sri Lanka as part of an illegal consignment, have been taken by a specialist INTERPOL team to assist national authorities determine their origin and potentially identify the criminal networks behind large-scale elephant poaching.The INTERPOL Investigative Support Team (IST), composed of ex...
22 July 2013

Ivory trafficking in West and Central Africa targeted in INTERPOL operation with IFAW support

LYON, France – An INTERPOL-led operation targeting criminal organizations behind the illegal trafficking of ivory in West and Central Africa has resulted in some 66 arrests and the seizure of nearly 4,000 ivory products and 50 elephant tusks, in addition to military grade weapons and cash.As part INTERPOL’s Project Wisdom, and supported by the Internation...
07 March 2013

Online ivory trade worth millions, INTERPOL report reveals

LYON, France – An INTERPOL report to identify the drivers and scale of the illegal online trade in ivory has revealed hundreds of items worth approximately EUR 1.45 million for sale on Internet auction sites across nine European countries during a single two-week period.During Project Web, supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the...
26 November 2012

INTERPOL supports wildlife crime investigations and operations in western Africa

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire – Developing the skills of law enforcement officers to more effectively prevent and investigate wildlife crime was the focus of an INTERPOL training course in collaboration with Environment Canada and French Gendarmerie Nationale, funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).A total of 20 wildlife police officers from...
19 June 2012

INTERPOL’s largest operation combating illegal ivory trafficking targets criminal syndicates

LYON, France – 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 tonnes of contraband elephant ivory.The three-month long Operation Worthy, which involved 14 countries across Eastern, Southern and Western Africa also r...
29 August 2011

INTERPOL-supported training aims to curb wildlife trafficking across Southern Africa

GABORONE, Botswana – Law enforcement officers from eleven southern African countries have completed an intensive six-day training course on wildlife law enforcement organized by INTERPOL, designed by Environment Canada and primarily funded by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare).The six-day workshop (22-27 August) was designed to improve gove...
18 May 2010

Illegal ivory and rhino horn trade target of INTERPOL co-ordinated operation across southern Africa

A transnational operation co-ordinated by INTERPOL targeting wildlife crime across southern Africa has resulted in the location and closure of an illegal ivory factory, the seizure of nearly 400 kilos of ivory and rhino horn with a market value of more than one million dollars, as well as the arrest of 41 people.The two-day operation (13-14 May), codename...
02 February 2010

INTERPOL supports best practice training in Kenya to combat wildlife crime

TSAVO WEST, Kenya – Pilots with the Kenyan Wildlife Service Airwing have participated in a five-day safety and proficiency training course supported by INTERPOL and the Lindbergh Foundation to maintain their existing skills and improve techniques in emergency maneuvers for their demanding work.“Aerial patrols are critically important to wildlife protectio...
30 November 2009

Illegal ivory trade focus of biggest ever transnational wildlife crime operation in Africa co-ordinated by INTERPOL

More than two tons of illegal ivory have been seized and more than 100 people arrested in the largest-ever transnational operation targeting wildlife crime across Africa co-ordinated by INTERPOL.Codenamed Operation Costa, the series of actions involved officers from police, national wildlife, customs and national intelligence agencies across six countries...
17 November 2008

Africa sees largest-ever international operation against wildlife crime, co-ordinated with INTERPOL

An operation across Africa on Saturday targeting wildlife crime has led to the arrest of almost 60 people and the seizure of one ton of illegal elephant ivory. The one-day sweep targeted more than 50 locations, including local ivory markets, airports, border crossings and smuggling points.The arrests and seizures were part of a five-country law enforcemen...
16 October 2008

INTERPOL and CITES launch new support manual for wildlife crimes investigators

LYON, France – A guide to support law enforcement officers investigate wildlife crimes was today launched by the Secretaries General of INTERPOL and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).The manual, jointly produced by the two organizations, provides guidelines on how to carry out Controlled Delivery o...
08 July 2008

Kenya wildlife rangers pursue poachers to curtail ivory trafficking

NAIROBI – Elephant tusks completely fill two rooms of the basement storage facility of the Kenya Wildlife Service. In the raw, it is hard to see why anyone would risk his life to get them, or protect them. They resemble little more than pieces of driftwood.To the criminals who traffic in them, they might as well be gold – once cut, carved and polished, th...
08 July 2008

Kenya welcomes donation of INTERPOL plane to boost fight against wildlife crime

NAIROBI, Kenya – INTERPOL has formally donated a plane to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to help boost the country’s anti-poaching and wildlife law enforcement efforts.Welcoming the handover of the Super Cub plane at a recent ceremony at Wilson Airfield in Nairobi, Kenya’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Noak Wekesa, KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich a...
20 June 2007

Cameroon and Hong Kong win INTERPOL award for fighting wildlife crime

INTERPOL presented wildlife authorities in Cameroon and Hong Kong with the INTERPOL Eco-Message Award for 2007 for their role in the dismantling of a major ivory-smuggling operation.The Eco-Message is a standardised form developed by INTERPOL to facilitate the exchange and analysis of information on important seizures of rare, endangered or illegally trad...
28 February 2006

Programme training Kenyan officers to prevent wildlife crimes

Enforcement officers with the Kenya Wildlife Service are learning how to more effectively prevent and investigate the poaching of wildlife during a comprehensive INTERPOL-funded training programme being conducted through 10 March.Courses during the training, taught by experts from INTERPOL and national wildlife officers from the United States, Canada and...

Operation Wendi

Operation Worthy

INTERPOL - IFAW Operation Worthy 2012

INTERPOL - IFAW Environmental Crime Training Programme

BBC Panorama ‘Ivory Wars: Out of Africa’ (Part 1)