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Clampdown on Medicines

Clampdown on Medicines Made With Endangered Plants and Animals Hailed a Success

A UK inspired world-wide Interpol operation aimed at stopping the illegal trade in traditional medicines containing endangered plant and animal species has been hailed a success.

The UK's contribution to Operation Tram saw a multi-agency group, made up of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Animal Health, the UK Border Agency, the Metropolitan Police, and police forces across England and Scotland, seize large quantities of traditional medicines containing ingredients derived from endangered animal and plant species.

During the operation, which ran from February 1st-28th, the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit together with the UK Border Agency executed three warrants at premises controlled by a large wholesaler suspected of illegally trading traditional medicines.

In addition, Animal Health Wildlife Inspectors, local police officers and members of NWCU visited 10 premises trading in traditional medicines in Leeds, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen.

Numerous products containing ingredients from illegally traded wildlife were seized during the operation, and there is potential for significant enforcement action by police and the UK Border Agency once all associated investigations have been completed.

The UK was one of at least 19 countries across five continents taking part in Operation Tram, which is the first ever globally co-ordinated effort against the illegal wildlife trade. World-wide the initiative resulted in a number of arrests and the seizure of traditional medicines worth an estimated £9 million.

Chief Constable Richard Crompton, ACPO lead for the UK NWCU, said:

"While the law enforcement community recognizes the important cultural, historical and religious value of traditional medicines, the increased use of endangered species in their ingredients will no longer be tolerated as it places extreme pressure on their very survival and existence."

Detective Inspector Brian Stuart, Head of the UK NWCU, added:

"Law enforcement agencies in the UK are renowned for their partnership approach in combating wildlife crime both at home and abroad. This collaboration with Interpol is a first in tackling wildlife crime with a global perspective. It is well known that there has been a perception of 'high profit, low risk' associated with the smuggling of endangered products into the UK. Operation Tram shows our commitment to pursuing those engaged in this unlawful trade."

Nevin Hunter, Head of Compliance at the Animal Health Wildlife Licensing and Registration Service, said:

"The public should be reassured that the illegal trade in endangered species will not be tolerated, and that efforts to stamp out the illegal activity that undermines efforts to trade responsibly will continue."

Commenting on the global impact of an operation that saw tiger, bear, rhino and endangered plant species seized, David Higgins, Manager of the Interpol Environmental Crime Programme said:

"Operation Tram was the first ever globally co-ordinated effort against illegal wildlife trade using Interpol's services."

In the UK, activity under Operation Tram was co-ordinated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Priority Delivery Group. This group comprises representatives from the NWCU, Animal Health and the Metropolitan Police, headed by the UK Border Agency.

Charles Mackay, Head of the UK Border Agency CITES team and Plan Owner for the CITES Priority Group, said:

"The significant results achieved by this operation clearly demonstrates that the multi-agency approach adopted by the UK is the most effective way in tackling wildlife crime. The work done in developing and coordinating effective enforcement action against those trading illegally in traditional medicines has proved very worthwhile."

The recent operation follows on from 20 targeted inspections carried out on premises selling and supplying traditional medicines in London, Manchester, Southampton, Devon, Essex, Lancaster and Liverpool in late 2009.


Note to editors:

  1. Animal Health is an executive agency of Defra. It works throughout Great Britain on behalf of Defra, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Scottish Government and the Food Standards Agency. We primarily seek to minimise the risk and impact of notifiable animal diseases for the protection of the economy and public health. Animal Health has a team of 77 Wildlife Inspectors, who work across the UK undertaking compliance inspections and supporting law enforcement agencies in activity associated with aspects of wildlife crime. This involves CITES and some provisions of the domestic UK wildlife legislation relating to birds of prey.
  2. CC Richard Crompton is the ACPO representative and is committed to UK's status as a leader in the prevention and investigation of wildlife crime issues.
  3. The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) is a police-led, stand-alone, multi-agency unit with a UK-wide remit for wildlife crime. The NWCU gathers intelligence on national wildlife crime and provides analytical and investigative support to the police and UK Border Agency. The NWCU is the conduit between all agencies, domestically and internationally, that have a legal obligation or interest in dealing with wildlife crime.
  4. A network of Police Wildlife Crime Officers, spread across the 43 forces in England and Wales, provide the backbone for investigating wildlife and environmental crime.
  5. The UK Border Agency was launched on April 3rd 2008 by the Home Office, establishing a single force to protect our borders, control migration for the benefit of the country, prevent border tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime and make quick and fair decisions on asylum claims.

Press release issued by Animal Health

Press enquiries:

NWCU - 01506 833 721 or 07919 690 392

Animal Health - 01905 765214

UK Border Agency - 0207 035 3850

Metropolitan Police - 0207 230 8890 or 07798 500 694

All Animal Health press releases are available on the Animal Health