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Texas Officials Bust Dozens in National Wildlife Trafficking Crackdown

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife officials in Texas say they have begun a vicious crackdown on those people involved in the illegal business of online wildlife trafficking.

Earlier this week, Texas law enforcement, in conjunction with federal authorities, made dozens of arrests, which lead to the seizure of endangered Texas tortoises, invasive freshwater stingrays, piranhas, illegal snakes, zebra skins and snow leopard pelts.

According to Grahame Jones, chief of special operations with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas leads the nation in charges filed for the illegal trafficking of wildlife – mostly in Dallas and Fort Worth.

“We purchased a pretty wide array of animals” in addition to mounts and pelts, said Captain Greg Wiliford of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Among them were some freshwater stingrays, which are considered an invasive species.”

In what authorities are calling Operation Wild Web, game wardens and U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents went undercover to bust illegal traffickers on Craigslist, eBay and other web-based marketplaces.

“Our message is simple and the same: The Internet is not an open marketplace for protected species,” said William Woody of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Officials say that illegal wildlife trafficking rakes in nearly $20 billion a year across the globe – ranking it fourth in illegal activity behind narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

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