From our Magazine: The War on Wildlife Hits Home
In February 2012, special agents of the US Fish and Wildlife Service closed in on a crime ring they’d been watching for two years.
Their nationwide takedown soon had 10 suspects in custody, their origins ranging from Manhattan to Los Angeles to Hong Kong. They seized bags of cash, gold bars, diamonds and Rolex watches worth upwards of $3 million, plus something both infinitely more valuable and grisly: the horns of 37 rhinos.
“Operation Crash,” as the ongoing investigation is named (the term “crash” is also defined as a gathering of rhinos), has exposed a dramatic surge of crime and slaughter now sweeping away wildlife in countries across the world. Not only rhinos, but elephants, tigers and a host of other species are the targets of a deadly new war on wildlife that has blossomed into a $10 billion a year industry—one of the four leading illegal trades behind drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
And no longer is this a tragedy confined to the exotic locales of Africa and Asia. The United States has surfaced as both a leading accomplice to and victim of the crime as well as one of the greatest hopes for salvation.