By Steve Campbell
From a snow leopard pelt confiscated in Fort Worth to a clock fashioned out of endangered Texas tortoise shells and live piranhas sold in California, a two-week online sting by state and federal wildlife officials last summer resulted in 154 arrests for illegal wildlife Internet sales.
“It’s not just the uniformed warden that is going to sneak up on you while you are doing your dirty deed. We’re watching you on the Internet, too,” said Captain Greg Williford, who leads the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s criminal investigations unit.
Operation Wild Web, a joint undercover operation led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and coordinated with 16 state wildlife agencies and three Asian countries, resulted in 30 cases involving federal wildlife crimes and 124 violations of state wildlife laws, according to Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement with the federal agency.
Williford said 51 of the cases involving $19,000 worth of illegal transaction were made in Texas.
“Our message is clear and simple: The Internet is not an open marketplace for protected species, ” Grace said in a Thursday news release.
Wildlife and wildlife products seized during Operation Wild Web included the pelts of endangered big cats such as Sumatran tiger, snow leopard and jaguar; live migratory birds; sea turtle shells and sea turtle skin boots; whale teeth; elephant ivory; migratory bird mounts; walrus ivory; and other items. The intercepted transactions involved more than $60,000-worth of wildlife contraband, the USFWS said. More....