More than 1,000 animals were seized and hundreds of people arrested following a month-long global investigation.
Codenamed Operation Thunder 2021, the probe targeted illegally traded endangered species, ranging from big cats, birds and reptiles to antlers and molluscs.
Throughout the investigation, conducted by Interpol and the World Customs Organization, thousands of cars, trucks and freighters were inspected using sniffer dogs and x-ray scanners.
Total reported global seizures include:
In the UK, in one of the largest plant seizures in the operation, Border Force seized 1.3 million tablets containing the Saussurea Costus plant from a container in Felixstowe.
The plant, native to South Asia and China, is used in some traditional medicines for pain relief or to treat health conditions such as inflammation, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
It is included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement aimed at ensuring that trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Trade carried out in violation of CITES is illegal.
In Mozambique, South African authorities seized 460 kg of abalone shellfish destined for China – the species is considered to be at a critical level due to overexploitation.
Dutch authorities discovered 145 snakes and other reptiles in baggage at Schiphol International Airport, as well as 454 live birds, most of which were African songbirds.
Spanish police seized more than 250 CITES-protected items worth 250,000 euros (Â£ 212,712), including turtles, parrots, ivory-based goods and timber.
In Mexico, the link between wildlife and drug crime became clear after authorities arrested three Chinese nationals for smuggling Totoaba bladders, sea cucumbers and coral, as well as methamphetamine and silver.
The results of the operation, which took place from October 1 to 31, are still being recorded, but to date more than 1,000 seizures have taken place and some 300 suspects have been identified.
The investigation involved police, financial intelligence units and wildlife agencies in 118 countries – the largest number since the annual investigation began in 2017.
âOrganized crime networks generate billions of illicit profits every year, at a cost to our environment as well as the associated impacts of fraud, corruption and violence,â said the Secretary General of Interpol, Jurgen Stock.
“We are witnessing the continuing globalization of crime, which means that only an international response can be effective, as this latest Operation Thunder demonstrated.
“Each of our 195 member countries has a role to play in tackling this threat, either directly or in follow-up investigations,” added Mr. Stock.
Since 2017, Thunder’s operations have resulted in approximately 8,000 seizures of protected wildlife and forest species and more than 3,000 arrests.