By Robert Wilonsky
Endangered Texas tortoises, invasive freshwater stingrays, live piranhas, illegal-to-own snakes, zebra skins and a snow-leopard pelt sold in Fort Worth — those are just a few of the animals and items seized by state and federal law enforcement agencies during Operation Wild Web, which officials said today resulted in dozens of arrests and cases stretching from Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston and across the country. Arrests were even made as far away as Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.
Grahame Jones, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Law Enforcement chief of special operations, said in a statement that “Texas played a vital role in this operation” and “led the nation in charges filed, including 51 state and federal cases.”
In a release that sounds like a updated plot of The Freshman, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says it worked in concert with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bust dozens of people involved in the online trafficking of wildlife. Locally the undercover operation involved 30 Texas game wardens working with federal agents in three teams scattered across Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, says Capt. Greg Wiliford of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
All told, hundreds of agents with 16 state wildlife agents across the country worked with the feds to shut down the sale of animals online.
“Our message is simple and the same: The Internet is not an open marketplace for protected species,” said William Woody, USFWS Assistant Director for Law Enforcement, in a statement. “State partners were essential to the success of this operation, and that cooperation remains critical to disrupting wildlife trafficking on the Web and elsewhere. More....