Putting the Right Teams in the Training Room Helps Save Animals

Many of those secret details will eventually be known to all, as the main purpose of this training is to launch a series of coordinated operations across southern Africa breaking up smuggling rings, ivory markets and known poachers.

We were all up with the dawn on Monday morning for the first day of Wildlife Enforcement training. Rich, Dave and Neil, and I who make up the film crew here in Botswana drove through Gaborone rush hour out to the remote police college.

Also with us; The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) Jason Bell-Leask, Director of Southern Africa and Kelvin Alie, Director of IFAW’s Prevention of Illegal Wildlife Trade Program.

Jason is here to give a speech to open the training session along with Deputy Police Commissioner of Police Mr. I. G. Bagopi, DDT Mr. B. Gobotswang and INTERPOL’s Environment and Wildlife Officer Bill Clark.

Jason was very clear in his speech saying, “international cooperation between range states is key to stopping the global criminal syndicates that are trafficking in ivory and killing southern Africa’s elephants.” This is the true goal of the effort we’re making to help save elephants and other animals from a bitter end at the hands of those who traffic in wildlife here and at stops around the globe.

Late that morning Mr. Bagopi was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview. Mr. Bagopi has such an air of authority that if he told me to jump I wouldn’t ask him ‘how high?’- I’d just start jumping and ask him if it was high enough.

As a police officer his dedication to enforcing the law is clear. In Botswana one of the most severe threats is poaching of elephants and rhinos. During the interview he mentioned again and again how important it is to have regional cooperation.

Within Botswana, in the battle to save elephants, that means having the army coordinating activities with police in the hunt for poachers. Mr. Bagopi also spoke about the importance of having this kind of training to increase cooperation, shared knowledge and mutual support across range states that face the same challenges.

After the ceremonies of the morning the training began in earnest and the trainees began to discuss the finer points of interrogation, intelligence gathering, note taking and other techniques.

Procedural police work isn’t sexy, however it’s the kind of stuff that, if not done correctly, leads to criminals being set free regardless of how many elephants they may be guilty of killing.

Unfortunately our team is politely asked to leave the room when specific details of suspects, crimes and opportunities to bust wildlife trafficking rings are being discussed, "standard security protocol, sirs."

Many of those secret details will eventually be known to all, as the main purpose of this training is to launch a series of coordinated operations across southern Africa breaking up smuggling rings, ivory markets and known poachers.

I don’t know when these busts will happen but they can’t come soon enough for elephants!

One of the nicest surprises at this training was running into a couple of compatriots dedicated to fighting wildlife trafficking; Richard Charette of Environment Canada, who actually wrote the dauntingly extensive curriculum based on the six weeks of training that Canadian Environmental Law Enforcement Officers undergo.

His colleague Ross is also here as a facilitator and is an experienced environmental law enforcement officer. Credit has to go to Environment Canada for financially supporting INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Program. They are one of the only governments in the world to do so – a fact that should embarrass the numerous countries where illegally trafficked wildlife products end up displayed with pride on arms and mantelpieces.

-- AH

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world visit http://ifaw.org

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Azzedine Downes,Executive Vice President for International Operations, VP of P
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
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Jeffrey Flocken, Regional Director, North America
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Kelvin Alie, Programme Director, Wildlife Trade
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Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
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Tania McCrea-Steele, Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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