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17 November 2008 - Media release

Africa sees largest-ever international operation against wildlife crime, co-ordinated with INTERPOL

An operation across Africa on Saturday targeting wildlife crime has led to the arrest of almost 60 people and the seizure of one ton of illegal elephant ivory. The one-day sweep targeted more than 50 locations, including local ivory markets, airports, border crossings and smuggling points.

The arrests and seizures were part of a five-country law enforcement operation co-ordinated by INTERPOL. Operation Baba involved more than 300 law enforcement officers from police, customs, national wildlife and national intelligence agencies in Congo (Brazzaville), Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, and represented the largest-ever international wildlife law enforcement operation conducted in Africa.

Illegal domestic ivory markets have been persistently identified by nature conservation agencies - including CITES, the UN-administered endangered species treaty - as a major factor in continued poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory. Operation Baba was planned to address that problem and is the first in a series of operations of this nature being planned worldwide.

"With the ‘globalization’ of criminal syndicates, transnational co-operation is the key to successful law enforcement, as has been seen in Operation Baba," said INTERPOL’s Executive Director for Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

"This is where INTERPOL's central role of facilitating co-operation between law enforcement agencies in multiple countries proves its worth," he said. "The operation’s positive results were achieved because of the concerted cross-border action of police, wildlife and intelligence agencies."

The Director of INTERPOL’s Operational Assistance, Services and Infrastructure Support (OASIS) programme, Giuliano Zaccardelli, said that OASIS helped countries in Africa mount such anti-crime operations by enhancing the capacity of countries to address crime threats nationally, regionally and globally.

"Co-operation among countries in East, West and Southern Africa against wildlife crime has set an inspired example. Similar operations to Baba could also be conducted in Asia, the Americas and in any other region where criminals traffic illegal wildlife products," he said.

Operation Baba was named to honour the memory of Gilbert Baba, a Ghana Wildlife Department ranger who was murdered by illegal wildlife dealers a decade ago. The operation was co-ordinated by the INTERPOL General Secretariat, based in Lyon, France, and involved the participation of agencies that are members of the INTERPOL Working Group on Wildlife Crime with additional support from The Humane Society of Canada, Humane Society International, and IFAW - the International Fund for Animal Welfare, as well as by the participating agencies.

Important support was provided by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), created in 1994 by governments in the region as a mechanism for regional co-operation to fight illegal trade in plants and animals.

Funding to support this significant operation was provided by the German Federal Government as part of the INTERPOL General Secretariat Project OASIS Africa initiative which aims to develop operational capacities for policing in the region, and is designed to enhance the ability to effectively combat and tackle national and international crimes.