|This tiger rug was one of several illegal items seized by authorities in southern California and Nevada.|
Federal prosecutors have recently announced that a dozen people have been arrested on charges of violating wildlife protection crimes by selling nearly fifty "wildlife products" online. Of the twelve people, nine are facing federal charges and three are facing California state charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to six months' jail time and fined up to $100,000. The charges they face were filed under a joint federal and state investigation called Operation Cyberwild. During this dragnet, which began in July, investigators went undercover posing as buyers and responded to ads placed on websites by sellers in southern California and Nevada. Special agents working with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and game wardens of the California Department of Fish and Game bought a number of items from these perpetrators. These included a leopard skin coat for $8,000, a tiger rug for $10,000, a live arowana for $2,500, and two live red-whiskered bulbuls for $1,750. Federal prosecutors stated that authorities also confiscated live endangered fish and migratory birds, an elephant foot, mounted birds, and pelts from a leopard and a polar bear. According to Erin Dean, an agent with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, they hope the bust will send a message to any individuals selling- or even thinking of selling - endangered wildlife.
|A real genuine leopard-skin coat.|
I'm very glad to see what the local wildlife agencies in the U.S are doing, in order to combat the threat of illegal wildlife trade. But what amazed me about this operation is that it was helped by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). According to this article, about a half dozen volunteers in Los Angeles and throughout southern California searched on websites such as Craigslist, eBay, and various forums for participants in this lucrative business. While it's easy to say that this operation would send a message to any would-be perpetrators, I believe that in order to make it difficult for the sellers, Craigslist and eBay should set up rules to make it illegal to sell endangered wildlife online. This way, it will further help law enforcement to tackle this ongoing threat that is affecting endangered wildlife around the world.
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