Since 2012, records show that American law enforcement officials have arrested 26 people and prosecuted 18 for trading in rhino horns and ivory as part of Operation Crash, a nationwide criminal investigation into the black market for wildlife.
In addition, officials have smashed smuggling rings trading in gall bladders and paws from black bears and the totoaba, a fish in Mexico that has been pushed to the brink of extinction because of illegal trafficking. A totoaba bladder can fetch up to $20,000 in Asian countries, where it is prized in soups.
Court records and other documents show that the smuggling rings are made up of Chinese and Japanese traders; people with links to Mexican and South American drug cartels; Irish gangsters; American auction and antique dealers; and South African safari operators.
Most traffickers have little to fear, law enforcement officials said, because only an estimated 10 percent are caught