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12WILDLIFEweb-articleLargeThe plan includes using intelligence agencies and putting pressure on Asian countries to stop the buying and selling of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory.

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

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