IFAW and INTERPOL, working together to fight wildlife crime

2012 was one of the worst years ever for elephants and the illegal ivory trade and 2013 is off to an even worse start. Almost five tonnes of ivory were seized in January 2013 alone in seizures in Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Mombasa, Kenya.

Few animals are as threatened by the illegal trade in wildlife as elephants and the need for international enforcement collaboration to choke off this criminal enterprise is more urgent than ever before.

IFAW and INTERPOL share a profound commitment to battling the illegal ivory trade through building enforcement capacity and improving information sharing among wildlife enforcement agencies.

In 2005 IFAW in partnership with the Bosack and Kruger Foundation provided a grant to INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme to establish the post of Criminal Intelligence Officer for Wildlife Crime and develop collaborative programs to stop wildlife trafficking

Training to oppose wildlife crime

IFAW supports INTERPOL enforcement projects with joint wildlife law enforcement trainings. Together, IFAW and INTERPOL have provided training for law enforcement and customs officials from 20 countries across Africa. In total IFAW-sponsored trainings have reached more than 1,600 law enforcement officers, customs officials and other authorities in 30 countries around the globe.

Under the umbrella of INTERPOL’s Project WISDOM, which supports and enhances the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of elephants and rhinoceros, participants are trained in a range of skills needed to conduct strategic wildlife law enforcement inspections based on best practices and lessons learned in the field.

The curriculum covers international wildlife law, interagency cooperation, risk management, interrogation techniques, investigative procedures, national legislation and enforcement tools.

The end results are less ivory in illegal markets, more wildlife protected, more successful prosecutions and a clear message that wildlife trafficking is a serious crime with severe consequences. Ivory smuggling in particular is often the work of international criminal syndicates who fund their illicit activities with the proceeds from the lucrative ivory trade.

A WORTHY cause

On the front lines, in March and April 2012, IFAW facilitated INTERPOL’s Operation WORTHY, the largest ever multinational operation to combat elephant ivory and rhino horn trafficking across Africa.

In preparation for Operation WORTHY, IFAW funded a training program held at Botswana Police College in Botswana for wildlife law enforcement officers from 10 countries. INTERPOL conducted the workshop with assistance from Environment Canada. The training focused on fundamental law enforcement skills that became essential in the success of Operation WORTHY.

Operation WORTHY saw INTERPOL and IFAW team up to target criminal organizations behind the illegal trafficking of ivory. Police, wildlife law enforcement, customs, revenue and other units conducted inspections and served search warrants against wholesalers, dealers, retailers and individuals. More than 300 officers were deployed across 14 African countries.


  • 214 arrests
  • 2 tons of contraband elephant ivory seized
  • 20 kilos of rhinoceros horn recovered
  • 30 illegal firearms, mostly military-grade weapons confiscated

This has been to date the most wide-ranging operation coordinated by INTERPOL against the illegal ivory trade, not just in terms of seizures and arrests, but also in targeting the criminal organizations making millions of dollars through the killing and destruction of wildlife and their habitat, and associated crimes such as murder, corruption and money laundering.

The operation is just one component in IFAW’s long-term plan for reducing the trafficking of ivory and rhinoceros horn in Africa and beyond.