Federal and state authorities have filed criminal cases against a dozen people who allegedly used Internet sites to illegally sell endangered species and other wildlife protected by federal and state law, including fish, birds and exotic animal pelts. The charges are the result of Operation Cyberwild, a task force investigation conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), with assistance from volunteers with the Humane Society of United States.
Operation Cyberwild was announced today following the arrest of a Las Vegas man charged with selling boots made out of threatened sea turtles. During the operation, federal agents and state game wardens recovered live endangered fish, protected migratory birds, an elephant foot, and pelts from a tiger, a polar bear, a leopard and a bear.
André Birotte Jr (United States Attorney, Central District, California): The sale of endangered animals on the Internet has reached an alarming level, with as much as two-thirds of such sales taking place in the United States.
During the investigation, which began in July 2011, special agents with FWS and game wardens with CDFG focused on Internet advertisements placed by sellers in Southern California and Southern Nevada. As a result of Operation Cyberwild, the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles filed charges against nine defendants, and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged three defendants.
The 12 defendants charged in federal and state court each allegedly offered for sale animals or animal parts. The defendants are variously charged with violating the federal Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act and various state wildlife laws.
[Image Courtesy: The Humane Society of United States]