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25 February 2014

Response to elephant poaching and ivory trafficking focus of new INTERPOL report

NAIROBI, Kenya – With record levels of global ivory seizures in 2013, a new INTERPOL report highlights the need for greater information sharing to enable a more proactive and effective law enforcement response against trafficking syndicates.

The report, produced by INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit, also highlights the need for increased intelligence analysis in order to provide sound evidence for multiple count indictments where the trafficking is linked to fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.

Large-scale ivory shipments – each one representing the slaughter of hundreds of elephants – point to the involvement of organized crime networks operating across multiple countries.

Head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit, David Higgins, said while there was a global recognition of the problems of elephant poaching and ivory smuggling, a more integrated approach was needed for a more effective response.

“Ivory seizures are clearly an important step in stopping this illicit trade, but this is just one part of a much bigger picture,” said Mr Higgins.

“If we are to target those individuals behind the killing of thousands of elephants every year, who are making millions at the cost of our wildlife with comparatively little risk, then we must address each and every stage of this criminal activity in a cohesive manner.

“Information from poachers, documentation obtained during seizures, interviews with associated traffickers and other evidence, all of this needs to be systematically gathered and analysed for a collective response. INTERPOL’s global databases and network provide a unique platform to support these activities and coordinate a multinational response from law enforcement worldwide,” concluded Mr Higgins.

The report ‘Elephant Poaching and Ivory Trafficking in East Africa – Assessment for an effective law enforcement response’ was launched at the Canadian High Commissioner’s Residence in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Canada continues to make a positive contribution to this fight, having recently announced an additional two million dollars in emergency funding support to combat wildlife trafficking in Eastern Africa in order to disrupt illicit networks involved in poaching and the illegal trade of wildlife,” said David Angell, Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya.

Among the report’s key recommendations are the creation of National Environment Security Task Forces (NESTs) to encourage multi-agency cooperation; intelligence analysis and investigation units dedicated to tackling wildlife crime; deployment of INTERPOL Investigative Support Teams to provide assistance in evidence collection and analysis for elephant poaching and ivory seizures; and increased use of INTERPOL’s Notices system to enhance transnational law enforcement cooperation in combating ivory trafficking.

In 2008, INTERPOL launched Project Wisdom to improve wildlife law enforcement in Africa, specifically targeting illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. Since then, INTERPOL has coordinated six operations targeting ivory and rhinoceros horn traffickers which collectively resulted in the arrests of more than 520 persons charged with offences related to ivory and rhinoceros horn.