IFAW and the Republic of Congo fight ivory trafficking
More than 30 senior staff from different governmental agencies in Congo (Brazzaville) honed their skills and increased their capacity to halt ivory trafficking. A three-day training course began on World Environment Day (June 5th) and involved participants from a cross-section of government including wildlife protection, forest services, customs, defense, homeland security, port management, and justice.
Congolese authorities are struggling to cope with the ever-increasing illicit trade in ivory bolstered by demand from Asian customers. This was made clear in a December 2011 survey funded by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire and Ouesso. The survey found a clear need for additional training to support existing repressive measures and the judicial system in combating the bloody trade.
This advanced workshop on preventing ivory trafficking is jointly organised by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Forest Economy, and Environment of Congo and IFAW. It is targeted at agencies working to prevent wildlife-related crime. The workshop will address the role unregulated domestic markets play in international ivory trafficking, the problems arising from criminal syndicates involved in this trade, and ways to undermine illicit domestic markets by strengthening inter-agency cooperation.
The training was opened on June 5th by Madame Antoinette Nkabi, Counseillère a la faune et aux aires protégées du MDDEFE, Mr. T. J Zekakany, Assistant Chief Prosecutor for Brazzaville and IFAW Director for France and Francophone Africa Ms. Celine Sissler-Bienvenu.
Madame Antoinette remarked that “[her] country will spare no effort to protect and preserve its animals and habitats.” She wished that the workshop would enhance the capacity of the agencies present to carry out their mandate. Mr. T. J. Chris Zekakany stressed the need to “impose a legal war on elephant poachers” and establish a national prosecutor’s network to combat the illegal killing of elephants and illegal ivory trade.
In her speech, Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director of IFAW France and Francophone Africa, reminded everyone that “the Republic of Congo can be either a starting point for ivory trafficking or a transit point. Unregulated domestic ivory markets are supporting and even stimulating illicit international trade in ivory. It is therefore essential to bring these markets under control, dismantle them, and come up with solutions to curb these criminal acts that are threatening the survival of a species.”
Elephant poaching is increasing at an alarming rate, threatening the very existence of certain elephant populations in Central Africa as evidenced by the recent massacre of hundreds of elephants earlier this year in Bouba Njida National Park in Cameroon.
Criminal gangs are using sophisticated methods and change them frequently to stay under the radar of governmental agencies and maintain a lucrative business propped up by demand in Asia and the Middle East. All stakeholders need to be aware of how they can improve cooperation to effectively fight against ivory trafficking, from the bush all the way to courts.
Wildlife trafficking prevention seminars have already been organized by IFAW in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Oceania, and the Caribbean. To date, more than 1,300 governmental representatives at the forefront of this struggle have been trained since 2006.
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in distress all over the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW provides hands-on assistance to animals in need, works to prevent animal cruelty, and advocates protecting wildlife and their habitats. For more information, visit our website: www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.