UK Border Force seizes THOUSANDS of illegal wildlife items

Border Force officials have seized thousands of illegal wildlife products coming into the UK in an international operation against organised crime.

Known as Operation Thunder, products include clothes and accessories made from snakeskin, turtle shell and ivory as well as consumer products containing cactus and orchid, crocodile blood and caviar.

The Home office says UK officers made 145 seizures in October and also found 53 live birds.

The operation was jointly led by Interpol and the World Customs Organisation with international efforts seeing over 133 countries make 2,114 seizures and 500 arrests.

More than 300 kilograms of ivory were recovered, along with thousands of turtle eggs, 30 tonnes of plants, dozens of big cat body parts and rhino horns as well as primates, birds and marine species.

Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery Tom Pursglove said: “The illegal wildlife trade is driven by criminal gangs and threatens species with extinction, fuels corruption, and deprives the world’s poorest communities of sustainable livelihoods.

“Border Force plays a leading global role in eradicating this damaging illegal trade and our recent successes under Operation Thunder are proof of this.”

The Home Office said its current operation is intended to help protect the overall decline of nature and meet the Government’s target of protecting 30 per cent of nature by 2030 – agreed internationally at a UN summit.

Wildlife crime is thought to be worth up to £17billion globally a year and is the fourth-largest international crime according to Interpol, behind only arms, drugs and human trafficking, according to official figures.

Dr Mark Jones, head of policy for Born Free, said: “Wildlife trafficking is serious, organised, transnational and increasing.

“It is also closely tied to other forms of serious crime, such as corruption, fraud and money laundering. All too often, criminal gangs view wildlife trafficking as a low-risk high-return activity.

“The work of Border Force in interrupting the trafficking of wildlife products across the UK’s borders is critical to the UK’s efforts to tackle this scourge.

“With so much of the world’s wildlife in crisis, it’s vital that our enforcement agencies are properly resourced to enable this essential and highly specialised work to continue.”