The Wildlife Justice Commission published today its Annual Report for 2021; its most successful year since its founding in 2015, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The Annual Report details the activities of the Wildlife Justice Commission in 2021 and highlights its major achievements.
In 2021, the Wildlife Justice Commission sent a strong message that the risk/reward ratio for wildlife crime is changing by facilitating the arrests of 32 high-level wildlife trafficking suspects and seizure of one of the largest seizures of pangolin scales since 2019.
Some of the key milestones included a joint operation with the Royal Thai Police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Bangkok, where a suspected high level wildlife trafficker operating throughout the region, was arrested while attempting to supply a leopard cub to a Wildlife Justice Commission undercover operative. This arrest was the culmination of five years of investigations by our crime analysts and undercover team, as well as the great work of the Royal Thai Police and the USFWS.
In July and September, acting on intelligence from the Wildlife Justice Commission, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in Lagos arrested five suspects and seized 211 sacks containing 8.1 tonnes of pangolin scales (equivalent to at least 19.000 pangolins), 9.6 kg of pangolin claws and 870 kg of ivory (equivalent to 87 elephants). All wildlife products were destined for export. This is the ninth largest seizure of pangolin scales since 2019, but crucially, the first where major traffickers have been arrested.
In both joint operations, the arrested individuals are suspected of involvement in a well-known transnational criminal network operating in West Africa, linked to more than 50% of the major ivory and pangolin seizures that occurred globally between 2018 and 2021.
These arrests have seriously disrupted the activities of this network and we would like to acknowledge the impressive work of the Nigerian Customs Service in these cases.
In addition to the efforts on the ground, the Wildlife Justice Commission produced an impressive array of intelligence briefings and public reports, delivering detailed insights to law enforcement agencies and policymakers.
The Wildlife Justice Commission is also expanding into the area of fisheries crime through secured funding from our longstanding supporters. In 2021, the Wildlife Justice Commission started preparations for investigations into the trafficking of shark fins and sea cucumbers.