Wild Animals Seized After SoCal Authorities Target Wildlife Trafficking; 16 People Charged

Sixteen people were charged and numerous wild animals were seized in connection with “Operation Jungle Book” — the largest wildlife trafficking sweep in Southern California history, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tiger recovered during Operation Jungle Book in the Los Angeles area. (Credit: USFWS)

Tiger recovered during Operation Jungle Book in the Los Angeles area. (Credit: USFWS)

The investigation and sweep yielded at least two tigers, king cobras, coral, a hyacinth macaw, turtles, a radiated tortoise, Asian fish and songbirds, a monitor lizard and other reptiles in the Los Angeles area, authorities said.

Some of the animals were smuggled illegally into the U.S. at Los International Airport while others were trafficked from other states into California.

A few of the animals were retrieved at the border by patrol officers, according to authorities.

Box turtles recovered during Operation Jungle Book in the Los Angeles area. (Credit: USFWS)

Box turtles recovered during Operation Jungle Book in the Los Angeles area. (Credit: USFWS)

“A live tiger that was illegally trafficked from Indiana into California and live cobras smuggled from Hong Kong in potato chip cans,” said Erin Dean, resident agent in charge at the Wildlife Service.

The volume and variety of animals seized lead to the “Junglebook” operation name, officials added.

At least 16 people have been arrested and charged in connection with the wildlife trafficking, according to the Department of Justice.

Some of the defendants were charged as individuals while others were charged as businesses or companies, authorities added.

Correction: A video and headline, as well as some text of this story, originally included incorrect information about Operation Jungle Book. The story has been updated and the video removed. Of two tiger cubs that were displayed at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service event in Torrance on Oct. 20, only one was the subject of an attempted smuggling attempt over the Mexico border. The other cub, which was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is bonded to the cub that was discovered by border agents. Both cubs now reside at the San Diego Zoo and both were brought to the Torrance event. Separately, a tiger cub was found in a Ventura County backyard in 2014 after being illegally purchased in Indiana. That cub, now grown, was part of Operation Jungle Book, as detailed in the U.S. Department of Justice news release.