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INTERPOL's 'Operation WORTHY' Fights Illegal Ivory Trade With IFAW (VIDEO)

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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."

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