Project Predator, targeting the illegal poaching and trade in Asian “big cats”, was launched during the 80th INTERPOL General Assembly (2011), in Hanoi, Vietnam.
As one of the 13 tiger-range countries, Vietnam affords its tigers the highest levels of protection under law. The launch of the project in this country provided a solid platform for INTERPOL’s engagement in the response to tiger crime and other forms of wildlife crime in the region. Project Predator is funded primarily by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Tigers are on the brink of extinction. The greatest threat comes from criminals who control an illegal trade spanning countries and continents. Tigers and other Asian big cats are illegally killed or poached due to the high value of their fur on the black market, and the demand for their body parts for traditional medicines.
Profits produced from these illegal activities are also intricately linked to fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, other kinds of smuggling, violence and extortion. The illegal trade in tigers is one of the most high profile, destructive and urgent forms of wildlife crime.
The enforcement response needs to employ advanced, intelligence-led methods of investigation and the engagement of the whole criminal justice system. The response must target the individuals and networks who control this lucrative trade, bring them to justice, and seize any assets obtained through their crimes.
Project Predator supports and enhances the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of Asian big cats and will develop a global picture of the criminal activity undermining ongoing conservation efforts.
The project’s fundamental activities include:
- Generating a higher use of genetic information, and the potential development of a regional platform of tiger genetic fingerprints for conservation management and wildlife enforcement in the region;
- Supporting national, regional and international law enforcement efforts with new and innovative mechanisms that will enhance the ability of law enforcement officers to address Asian big cat crime;
- Fostering communication, coordination and cooperation between enforcement experts and managers from Asian big cat range countries;
- Organizing collaborative, high-level international efforts to improve political will and transform this will into departmental support;
- Hosting training courses and investigative planning meetings;
- Developing a strategic and tactical analytic report on tiger crime;
- Assisting member countries in the organization of National Environmental Security Seminars (NESSs) and the establishment of National Environmental Security Task Forces (NESTs);
- Gathering, analysing and sharing intelligence;
- Stimulating intelligence-led investigations and enforcement activities;
- Providing assistance for the forensic processing of poaching scenes and seizure sites;
- Filling the gaps between arrests, intelligence-led investigations and prosecutions;
- Exploring new partnerships while drawing upon national and international strengths, resources and expertise;
- Strengthening the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) as an institution and connecting it to I-24/7, INTERPOL’s secure global police communications network.
World leaders must acknowledge that if we cannot save the tiger, there is little hope of success in tackling other environmental challenges. Project Predator is not limited to the protection of tigers, but extends to the protection of all Asian big cats, since these species face similar threats.
Protecting tigers will protect other Asian big cat populations as well, because the skins and body parts of leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards and Asiatic lions are traded in the same manner as tiger parts.