Arrests made in investigation of Internet selling of animal parts

July 12, 2013 at 4:27 PM

LOS ANGELES, July 12 (UPI) -- A nationwide undercover operation resulted in charges against six California residents for selling endangered species and animal parts online, officials said.

An investigation dubbed Operation Wild Web, coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, led to the filing of charges in United States District Court in Los Angeles Thursday, Environment News Service reported.

Investigators and prosecutors in the United States and in three Southeast Asian countries were involved in the operation to investigate illegal online commerce in wildlife, officials said.

"Our message is clear and simple -- the Internet is not an open marketplace for protected species," said Edward Grace, the Fish and Wildlife Service's deputy assistant director for law enforcement.

Items confiscated during the operation included the pelts of endangered big cats; live migratory birds; sea turtle shells; whale teeth; elephant and walrus ivory and other items, valued in total at more than $60,000.

Several non-profit organizations donated resources to the operation, including the Humane Society of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Freeland Foundation, officials said.

"The amount of wildlife available for sale via the Internet is staggering, and enforcement activities must increasingly concentrate on this arena of commerce if we are to protect wildlife from cruelty and maintain the viability of species," Human Society President Wayne Pacelle said.

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