Posts Tagged ‘Operation Shellshock’

Protect Me/Poach Me

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Here is a fascinating article in the current Scientific American on the impact endangered species listing can have on black market demand.  The conclusions are consistent with my own experience.  In one instance, for example, I was with a breeder of Burmese Mountain Tortoises (manouria emys) when she heard the tortoise might be upgraded to CITES I, ie, to critically endangered status.  She was ecstatic about the effect the upgrade would have on her sales (and prices), then paused to tell me that really, as a conservationist, she shouldn’t think that way.  Everything in this article may well be true, but what is the alternative?

Endangering Species: Listing Can Make Animals Valuable Black Market Commodities

By certifying species as endangered, government programs can backfire

By Wendy Lyons Sunshine

Through most of the last century, Javan hawk eagles (Spizaetus bartelsi) flew unnoticed through the dwindling forests of Indonesia’s principal island of Java. Their prominent head crest and multi-toned plumage didn’t attract attention, bird markets didn’t sell them, nor did zoos have them on display. Then in 1993 the Indonesian government awarded Javan hawk eagles special protected status. That’s when the bird’s fortune turned—for the worse. 

To celebrate the raptor’s official “National Rare/Precious Animal” designation, the Indonesian government printed the Javan hawk eagle’s likeness on postage stamps and phone books. Soon zookeepers and illegal pet collectors were clamoring for one of their own, and the birds began… Go to the Full Article.

Operation Shellshock: Look Familiar?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Operation Shellshock is making the rounds.  From the NYT.

Reptile Smugglers Are Arrested, Authorities Say

(New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)
In New York, 17 people were charged with 14 felonies as part of Operation Shellshock, a reptile smuggling bust by state environmental authorities.

The smugglers moved their goods across borders using secret compartments, a Maryland meat processing plant and the help of a corrupt Louisiana turtle farm. Their lucrative product: rattlesnakes, snapping turtles and salamanders.

This was the portrait of a trade in illegal reptiles and amphibians that New York State environmental authorities painted on Thursday, when the two-year undercover investigation called Operation Shellshock
ended with criminal charges against 18 people. More charges were made by American and Canadian and officials in other states, the New York officials said.  

The case had the familiar ring of a drug bust, but it was instead built in the unlikely world of herpetological shows and included charges against leaders at organizations like the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, the Long Island Herpetological Society, and the pet Web site (a Florida-based company facing New York charges)…  Read the rest of the NYT story

Here is Canada’s Press Release.

 Following is the NY State DEC Press Release:

 For Release: IMMEDIATE                                                                                                                              


DEC’s In-Depth Undercover Investigation Nets 18 Arrests
             An extensive undercover investigation into the poaching, smuggling and illegal sale of protected reptiles and amphibians by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has led to charges against 18 individuals for 14 felonies, 11 misdemeanors and dozens of violations, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.
             The investigation, dubbed “Operation Shellshock,” uncovered a lucrative, international black market for poaching and selling native, protected New York species – turtles, rattlesnakes and salamanders – through the Internet and at herpetological shows, Commissioner Grannis said. Investigators found thousands of New York turtles being laundered through “middlemen” in other states, then getting shipped overseas for meat and other uses…  More with Photos.