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08 July 2008

Kenya welcomes donation of INTERPOL plane to boost fight against wildlife crime

NAIROBI, Kenya – INTERPOL has formally donated a plane to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to help boost the country’s anti-poaching and wildlife law enforcement efforts.

Welcoming the handover of the Super Cub plane at a recent ceremony at Wilson Airfield in Nairobi, Kenya’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Noak Wekesa, KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich and Chief of the KWS Air wing Solomon Nyanjui, underlined that protecting Kenya's diverse plant and animal species was not just an ethical or heritage issue, but also a practical one, with 12 per cent of the country’s GDP originating from tourists going on safari and visiting its national parks.

The Super Cub plane, bought second-hand and refurbished for the KWS, is ideal for surveillance, since it can fly as slowly as five miles per hour, and fly for six hours on one tank of fuel.

Peter Younger, Chief of INTERPOL’s wildlife crime division, said the plane would help combat wildlife crime, which he said was one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world.

Various governmental and non-governmental agencies have estimated that it may be worth in excess of US$20 billion annually. The actual figure may never be known, as much of the trade occurs in less developed parts of the world, but could in fact be significantly higher.

'While we can only guess based on what we seize, some sources estimate that what is seized at the border constitutes only 10-15 per cent of what is traded,' Younger said.

'What is important to remember is that smuggling wildlife products feeds into multi-purpose criminal distribution networks that generate and feed into other types of crime,' he said.

'We have found that crime networks involved in wildlife smuggling are also likely to be involved in smuggling narcotics or bullion – concealed in shipments of wildlife artifacts – as well as in fraudulent passport applications, corruption and murder,' he said.

The ceremony heard that an INTERPOL initiative in the region – Project OASIS – to enhance law enforcement capacity in Africa would also include an anti-wildlife trafficking component. The four-year initiative, funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will assist police forces and law enforcement agencies in the region to more effectively combat national, regional and international crime.

The Kenya Wildlife Service was recognized by INTERPOL with a best practice award in 2005 for its efforts to protect the country’s diverse plant and animal species, and used the prize money to train enforcement officers in investigative and analytical techniques.

INTERPOL’s environmental crime programme was launched in 1992 and has grown significantly since, expanding areas of co-operation with many national, international and non-governmental agencies.