Thanks to Operation WORTHY, the illegal ivory trade was dealt a serious blow. In a campaign that spanned three months and 14 African countries, INTERPOL and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) "arrested more than 200 people, seized almost 2 tonnes of contraband ivory, 20kg of rhino horn and military grade automatic weapons," according to a press release.
IFAW's Kelvin Alie writes, "More than 320 officers from agencies including police, customs, environmental protection, veterinary services, airport security, ministries of tourism and prosecuting authorities took part in the operation. They investigated wildlife traffickers and criminal syndicates in domestic markets, ports, shops, border crossings and at roadside checks."
In the clip below from Discovery's "Ivory Wars," producers visit a market in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and find that illegal ivory is only offered to an undercover Chinese buyer, suggesting that "it may be Chinese buyers who are requesting the bulk of it." After showing an elephant tusk as long as the width of a van offered for $10,000, Discovery's narrator says "Unfortunately, it may already be too late for the forest elephants of the DRC, thanks to deforestation, consumption of elephant meat and a lax policy on ivory sales."
Earlier in July, two jewelers in New York City pleaded guilty to illegal commercialization of wildlife, after authorities confiscated over two million dollars worth of ivory from the two men. Together, the two men were forced to pay $55,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Society, reported AP.
In May, a senior official with the Wildlife Conservation Society said that about 5,000 elephants have been killed around the Nouabale Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo in the past five years, reported the Associated Press.
Elephants outside of Africa also face threats from humans. A Sumatran elephant was found poisoned in western Indonesia in May, likely killed by villagers trying to protect their crops. According to AP, "Fewer than 3,000 Sumatran elephants are left in the wild and environmentalists warn that they could be extinct within three decades unless steps are taken to protect them."
Three cheetah cubs, born in November 2004, lean against their mother during a preview showing at the National Zoo in February 2005 in Washington D.C. Today there are just 12,400 cheetahs remaining in the wild, with the biggest population, totaling 2,500 living in Namibia.
Baby Black Rhino
A baby Black Rhinoceros stands in front of its mother in an enclosure at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo in June 2009. The Black Rhinoceros is a critically endangered species, according to the International Rhino Foundation there are less than 5,000 surviving in the world.
An orangutan infant at Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta, Indonesia, on February 15, 2007. Orangutans are threatened by deforestation and hunting. Click here for more orangutan photos.
A baby joey koala at Sydney's Wildlife World. Though koalas are Australia's most iconic and adored marsupials, they are under threat due to a shortage of suitable habitat from mass land clearance.
Gorilla Mother And Son
A 15-year-old female mountain gorilla holds her five month old son at the Kahuzi Biega Nature Park in Democratic Republic of Congo in May 2004. Only 700 mountain gorillas are left in the world, and over half live in central Africa.
A group of African penguins gather near a pond at a conservation site in Cape Town, South Africa. Birdlife International say the African penguin is edging closer to extinction.
Endangered Tiger Cubs
A Trio of 45 day-old Bengal white tiger cubs were born in December 2007 At the Buenos Aires Zoo. With only 240 white tigers living in the world, their birth gave a boost to the animals' endangered population.
South Korea's Black Bears
A pair of black bears sit at a zoo in Kwachon, South Korea in November 2001. Black bears have been on the endangered species list since 2007.
A newly born Madagascar Lemur, an endangered species, at Besancon Zoo in France. There are only 17 living in captivity worldwide.
Two-month-old twin Red Panda cubs make their debut at Taronga Zoo in March 2007 in Sydney, Australia. The cubs were born out of an international breeding program for endangered species.
China's panda is one of the world's most beloved but endangered animals. Lin Hui, a female Panda- on a ten-year loan from China - eats bamboo at Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand in Sept 2005. Captive pandas are notoriously poor breeders.
South East Asian Monkey
The Sydney's Taronga Zoo is home for this bright orange male infant monkey. This South East Asian monkey is highly endangered.
A grey-bellied Night Monkey born in captivity climbs onto his mother's arms at the Santa Fe Zoo, in Medellin, Colombia. The Night Monkey is an endangered species.
A six-month-old male Sumatran tiger cub rests under his mother careful watch at the National Zoo in Washington in October 2004. Sumatran tigers are endangered; fewer than 500 are believed to exist in the wild and 210 animals live in zoos around the world.
A baby elephant is pictured at the Singapore Zoo on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. Many elephants are threatened by habitat loss and listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
A sow polar bear rests with her cubs on the pack ice in the Beaufort Sea in Alaska. In 2008, the U.S. government described polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Due to dangerous declines in ice habit, polar bears are at risk of becoming endangered.