52 ARRESTED IN POACHING STING

52 ARRESTED IN POACHING STING

Fifty-two people were arrested and at least $85,000 worth of exotic animals and organs seized during an undercover poaching operation announced Tuesday, a newspaper reported.

According to Tuesday editions of the Oakland Tribune, some of the charges involve a pet shop in Oakland specializing in reptiles.The operation began as an investigation into illegal trafficking in bear gall bladders, said Chuck Monroe, a fish and game patrol chief at the department's Yountville headquarters in Napa County.

Most of the charges involve poaching and commercialization of wildlife, both misdemeanor violations of the state Fish and Game Code, he said.

Mr. Munroe said the animal parts were marketed mostly to the Asian community as everything from aphrodisiacs to general health foods.

Investigators also found a variety of other animal parts on the market, including tiger and sea lion genitalia, rhinoceros horns and dried abalone.

Also found were several hundred male sex organs from other species, Mr. Munroe said, and the market value of all the animals and organs confiscated is between $85,000 and $100,000.

A news conference was scheduled in Colma City Council Chamber where California Department of Fish and Game released details of the two-year statewide investigation. The names of those arrested would be made available at that time, officials said.

Many of the animal organs are probably being marketed fraudulently, Mr.

Monroe said, as when cow or pig gall bladders are represented as bear - and in those cases, consumer fraud charges will be added.

It's probably the tip of the iceberg, but it's the best we've done so far, he said.

Our understanding of it is that they are thought to be an overall health enhancement, he said. With bear gall bladders, the thinking is that a bear is so healthy, if you eat them, you will have the same kind of health . . . With (male genitalia), energy enhancement is the end product.