Operation Ambush

The illegal tiger trade across Asia

During our Vietnam investigation in 2016, the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) observed an alarming increase in the illegal tiger trade. Operation Ambush began in July 2016 to examine the drivers and organised criminality behind the illegal tiger trade across Asia, with a particular focus on the role of tiger farms across the Greater Mekong region. 

The growth in unregulated and private breeding may be enabling illegal trade, at the same time wild tigers are being targeted to service demand in Vietnam and China.

In August 2016, WJC investigators supported officers from the Malaysian Department of Wildlife & National Parks, PERHILITAN, who arrested eight Vietnamese nationals in possession of two wild tiger skins, tiger canines and bear claws. One was sentenced to three year’s imprisonment, one was fined MYR 15,000 (approx. USD 3,800) and the remaining six were convicted and deported back to Vietnam.

The Malayan tiger is now assessed to be critically endangered with less than 250 individuals left in the wild. Therefore, this network’s criminality is expected to have had a devastating impact upon Malaysia’s wild tiger population.

In September 2016, the WJC published a briefing with insights into the methods being used, the journey tigers take to market, and how this is facilitated by organised criminality. It presents preliminary results, based on our undercover investigations in Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia, open source research and intelligence obtained from governmental and non-governmental sources.

On World Tiger Day 2018, National Geographic detailed our Operation Ambush on a long feature published in their website. See publication.

Watch this undercover video of WJC investigators in Vietnam: