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29 August 2011

INTERPOL-supported training aims to curb wildlife trafficking across Southern Africa

GABORONE, Botswana – Law enforcement officers from eleven southern African countries have completed an intensive six-day training course on wildlife law enforcement organized by INTERPOL, designed by Environment Canada and primarily funded by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare).

The six-day workshop (22-27 August) was designed to improve governance, regional collaboration, the rule of law and the prosecution of wildlife traffickers who rob southern Africa of some of its greatest natural resources. In this respect, the need for such training was underlined earlier in the week when Tanzania, which sent two officers to the course, seized 1041 elephant ivory tusks.

The training involved 27 wildlife enforcement officials and police officers from Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The curriculum was designed by experts from Environment Canada and covers international wildlife law, interagency cooperation, risk management, interrogation techniques, investigative procedures, national legislation and enforcement tools.

Canada is one of the leading countries supporting the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme through a grant from Environment Canada.

“This training comes at a critical time as iconic species such as rhinos and elephants face dramatic threats to their future that can only be met with increased regional cooperation,” said Kelvin Alie, IFAW's Prevention in Illegal Wildlife Trade Program Director. “Thanks to the combined expertise of INTERPOL, Environment Canada and IFAW, we have a chance to stop these thieves and keep more wildlife in the wild.”

Environment Canada's Richard Charette, one of the creators of the intensive six-day curriculum, said: “Canada is aware that the missing element for most developed countries is effective tools such as identification guides at the point of entry and basic enforcement training. For Canada to have complete control of what enters the country in terms of protected species we must give countries the best support to stop the export of illegal goods  before they get to Canada and North America.”

“Addressing capacity issues such as this training session is a vital component of our strategy in reducing environmental crime in its complexity. Our goal is to improve the detection and apprehension of suspected wildlife criminals, whilst also furthering cooperation and collaboration between men and women, agencies and countries,” said David Higgins, Manager of the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme. 

The six-day workshop culminated in the planning of enforcement operations in the participants’ home countries in the coming months. With ivory smuggling in particular often the work of international criminal syndicates who fund their illicit activities with the proceeds from the lucrative ivory trade, the ensuing operations will target and aim to halt some of the region’s worst wildlife traffickers.