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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Africa trade bust 'biggest ever'


Tusk haul (AP)
Smuggled ivory finds its way all over the globe

More than one tonne of ivory products has been seized in Africa's largest-ever international crackdown on wildlife crime.

The operation, co-ordinated by Interpol and the Kenya Wildlife Service, led to the arrest of 57 illegal traders across five African nations.

The haul also included animal skins and hippopotamus teeth.

Interpol said that similar trans-national operations will be carried out worldwide to combat wildlife crime.

Planning for the bust, dubbed Operation Baba, started in June in response to a plea to Interpol from African nations dealing with illegal elephant killings.

Over the past weekend, undercover agents intercepted local dealers and brokers at ivory markets, border crossings and airports in the nations of Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia.

More than one tonne of ivory products - including powdered ivory and carved items - was recovered, as well as leopard, cheetah and serval cat skins.

"Co-operation among countries in East, West and Southern Africa against wildlife crime has set an inspired example," said Giuliano Zaccardelli, director of Interpol's Oasis programme that supports African law enforcement.

"Similar operations could also be conducted in Asia, the Americas and in any other region where criminal interests, including trafficking in illegal wildlife products, are common," he added.

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