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4,000 People Arrested during INTERPOL’s “Operation Cage” that Targeted the Illegal Trade in Birds

25 July 2012 – INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme:  

Thousands arrested in INTERPOL operation targeting illegal trade in birds

LYON, France – More than 8,700 birds and animals, including reptiles, mammals and insects have been seized and nearly 4,000 people arrested in an operation across 32 countries coordinated by INTERPOL against the illegal trade and exploitation of birds and their products.

Operation Cage, which included national wildlife enforcement authorities, police, customs and specialized units, also saw the seizure of trapping equipment, guns and ammunition during a series of interventions and raids conducted at sites including ports, airports, postal services, markets, pet stores and taxidermists in South and Central America and Europe.

While the operation focused on the illegal trade of birds, a number of other fauna and flora were found, including elephant ivory, turtles, fish and other live wildlife which were rehabilitated where possible. Operation Cage was launched in response to the growing illegal transborder trade of captive-bred and wild birds and eggs, and the increasing involvement of organized crime networks in their transit from Latin America to Europe.

“Operation Cage once again clearly demonstrates the global scale of the problem of the illegal trade in birds and other wildlife, which is not just an organized crime issue, but also represents a biosecurity risk,” said David Higgins, manager of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme.

“The criminals involved in this illicit trade have no concern for the welfare of these birds and animals and that many of the species being trafficked are endangered, the only concern they have is about the profits they can make.

“Operation Cage provides an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to work together to identify and arrest the criminals involved, disrupt the networks, stop the cash flow, and use the intelligence gathered to continue their investigations. INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme will continue to provide every support to each of our member countries in tackling this crime which affects  every region of the world,” concluded Mr Higgins.

Supported by the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and Environment Canada, Operation Cage which ran from April to June 2012 was coordinated by INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme unit at the General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, with information relayed via the National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in participating member countries.

Results are still being gathered and will be used to collate and analyse intelligence for future interventions.

Birds recovered by Colombian National Police as part of INTERPOL'S Operation Cage. (INTERPOL)
More than 2,200 birds were seized during Operation Cage. (INTERPOL)
Bridget Davidtsz
Wild-caught brown-headed parrot alone in a cage in Cape Town. (Bridget Davidtsz)
Mark Brown
Madagascar lovebirds in a holding cage at a local market where they are sold to traders. (Mark Brown)
Michael Sazhin/www.TrainedParrot.com
Senegal parrot in trade in West Africa. Note their poor condition and cramped housing. (Michael Sazhin/www.TrainedParrot.com)
A seizure of birds made in Hungary as part of INTERPOL's "Operation Cage". (INTERPOL)


  1. Jen B.
    December 19, 2013, 10:07 am

    Is there a way to educate people about eco-tourism and conservation to generate an income for these people instead of cruelly stealing babies out of their nests by the droves?

    All they can see is money – a means of survival. Stop the money, stop the bird-knapping.

  2. […] Over 4,000 people arrested during INTERPOL’s Operation Cage: https://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/26/4000-people-arrested-during-interpols-operation-c… […]

  3. Deborah
    August 2, 2012, 2:39 am

    exotic, and most people are not aware of the responsibilities and diet for these animals, they too often get tired and dump animals and creating over burdened rescue facilities. What amazing me , that animals naturally survive in natural environments, yet when you have to properly care for these animals are sometimes so demanding and takes dedication and effort in educating themselves for such dedication .

  4. Deborah
    August 2, 2012, 2:35 am

    I love animals, I understand that by the time the birds and animal by the time they reach their destination, most of them died in transport. It has caused so many animals endangered. Most people want to have something

  5. Lin Hamilton
    Vancouver, B.C.
    August 1, 2012, 8:04 pm

    It’s nice to see Interpol being proactive in something other than traditional crime and criminals.

  6. […] —Interpol arrests an astounding 4,000 people across 32 countries in a sting operation to combat the world’s illegal bird trade. [National Geographic] […]

  7. Rafa Saiz Elizondo
    Zarautz, Basque Country
    July 27, 2012, 5:32 am

    Why does not Intepol hit the first world buyers? That’s the main problem and the fastest way to end this trade. Hitting hunters in poor countries you get a more expensive product, you fuel the market and get an even more attractive job for traders.

  8. Tomoko Mimi SHimada
    July 27, 2012, 3:55 am

    Thank you for the great job! How could we stop the illegal trade?

  9. Lesley Frescura
    South Africa
    July 26, 2012, 4:36 pm

    Excellent news and good work Interpol. Only wish that this trade could be stopped completely.