Animal meat and banned ivory among items seized in international raids


Large cat skulls, seven kilos of banned ivory, products derived from crocodile and live reptiles are among items which have been seized in a series of international raids to hit the illegal wildlife and timber trade.

The haul is part of Operation Thunderstorm which ran throughout May and involved 1,974 seizures including 43 tonnes of wild meat.

Animals including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra were among the wild meat along with 1.3 tonnes of raw and processed elephant ivory, 27,000 reptiles and almost 4,000 birds, along with several tonnes of wood and timber and 48 live primates.

Police, customs, environment, wildlife and forestry agencies from 92 countries took part in the Interpol and World Customs Organization (WCO)-cordinated operation to target the networks behind global wildlife crime.

Ivory fans
Ivory fans

The Home Office said Border Force officials made 276 seizures, including seven kilos of banned ivory, and recovered tens of thousands of products which are banned under Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) at UK ports and airports.

Among the UK seizures were more than 120 live orchid plants, over 2,000 rosewood musical instruments and parts, over 3,000 rosewood carved items and more than 1,000 orchid extract tablets along with 7,600 cactus extract tablets and four live cactus plants.

There were also nine products derived from crocodile, 10 large cat skulls, four products derived from snake and two live reptiles among the UK seizures.

Border Force has also backed an ivory surrender scheme led by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which ran from mid-July 2017 to the end of January.

Live orchids
Live orchids

More than 118kg of ivory was voluntarily-surrendered in April and dealt with by the Heathrow Cites team. It has been destroyed at a secure location.

Grant Miller, head of the Border Force Cites enforcement team, said: "Our participation in Operation Thunderstorm, as well as our support for the ivory surrender, underlines our commitment to tackle wildlife crime which has a devastating environmental impact.

"Operation Thunderstorm is a crucial part of a global response to a global issue. The trade in endangered species is driven by organised crime groups and the movement of banned animal products is key to how they operate.

"This is why our specialist CITES officers will continue their vital work at the border to prevent the importation of endangered animals and plants, as well as linking with enforcement partners such as the National Wildlife Crime Unit, to stamp out this cruel and exploitative trade."