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20 June 2007

Cameroon and Hong Kong win INTERPOL award for fighting wildlife crime

INTERPOL presented wildlife authorities in Cameroon and Hong Kong with the INTERPOL Eco-Message Award for 2007 for their role in the dismantling of a major ivory-smuggling operation.

The Eco-Message is a standardised form developed by INTERPOL to facilitate the exchange and analysis of information on important seizures of rare, endangered or illegally traded plants and animal s among INTERPOL’s 186 member countries. The US $30,000 award, presented to the country or countries whose messages contribute the most to the fight against wildlife crime, can be used to either train personnel or purchase equipment.

‘This year’s selection was doubly difficult due to the excellent quality of many of the messages received,’ said Peter Younger, head of INTERPOL’s wildlife crime unit.

‘We hope this award will encourage more countries to send us information about seizures and cases through the Eco-Message system, so that we can log this data and make it immediately available to wildlife authorities, customs and other law enforcement around the world.’

The award – given by the INTERPOL Working Group on Wildlife Crime and funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare – was presented at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), held 3 to 15 June in The Hague, Netherlands.

The INTERPOL Working Group on Wildlife Crime recognised Cameroon’s Wildlife and Parks Department for its work in uncovering the organizational structure and individuals directly responsible for the smuggling of large amounts of raw ivory from Cameroon to Asia, and the subsequent dismantling of this operation.

Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was also singled out for detecting a shipment of nearly four tonnes of raw ivory concealed in a modified shipping container originating in Cameroon and for sharing information about the ongoing investigation with its colleagues in Cameroon.

INTERPOL issued a special Purple Notice in July 2006 in relation to the seizure to alert law enforcement of the modus operandi used to smuggle the ivory. The shipping container had a concealed compartment behind a false back wall for transporting the elephant tusks.

The number of Eco-Messages sent by member countries has increased fivefold in the past two years. The first Eco-Message Award was presented in 2005 to the Kenya Wildlife Service, which used the prize money to provide specialised training to 32 of its officers.