The CITES Secretary-General, Mr John E. Scanlon, welcomed the excellent results achieved during Operation Cobra, a month long cross-continent joint operation to combat illegal wildlife trade, which brought together police, Customs and wildlife officers from Botswana, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nepal, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, United States of America, Vietnam and Zambia.
“Operations bringing police, Customs and wildlife enforcement agencies of range, transit and destination States together to combat wildlife crime are essential. Equally important, is the need for effective follow-up investigations after contraband is detected or seized and the use of specialized investigation techniques, such as controlled deliveries, to ensure that all possible leads to address the entire criminal chain are pursued. This was clearly an objective of Operation Cobra, which is very encouraging”, said Mr Scanlon.
Operation Cobra, executed between 6 January 2013 and 5 February 2013, was coordinated by law enforcement officers and representatives of African and Asian national and regional wildlife law enforcement networks, working from the operation’s coordination centre that was established in Bangkok, Thailand. The operation focussed on some key species that are subject to illegal wildlife trade such as Asian big cats, elephant, great apes, pangolin and rhino, and resulted in a large number of arrests and the seizure of hornbill, ivory, leopard, pangolin, red sander wood, rhino horn, shahtoosh, snakes, tiger, and a number of other CITES listed species and their parts and derivatives.
Illegal wildlife trade is escalating and transnational and increasingly organized criminal groups are involved. Increased international cooperation and well coordinated enforcement responses are required to combat wildlife crime effectively.
Operation Cobra was an excellent initiative that provided valuable exposure of the ways and means of combating wildlife crime to all of the authorities that were involved. It also created an excellent opportunity for these authorities to establish new professional relationships with their counterparts from different agencies, countries and regions of the world.