Fighting wildlife trafficking in Central Asia through training front-line enforcement agents
About 30 customs officials, border police and wildlife law enforcement agents from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan and Mongolia came together in Almaty, Kazakhstan, for a five-day International Fund for Animal Welfare training workshop on the Prevention of Wildlife Trafficking.
The workshop, jointly sponsored by the Kazakhstan Forest and Game Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, UNDP and IFAW, successfully increased participants’ knowledge, skills, capabilities and motivation for wildlife crime enforcement.
The training included classroom and practical sessions led by international experts on the status of species, the scale of wildlife smuggling, effective enforcement activities, international trade conventions and inter-agency cooperation in wildlife conservation.
Participants obtained practical skills they can use in their jobs to correctly identify and handle species which are commonly trafficked through Central Asia and were equipt with the knowledge and methods necessary to prevent illegal wildlife trade.
A visit to the departure area of the VIP zone at the international airport in Almaty provided hands-on opportunities to explore smuggling techniques, permit fraud and mock customs-inspection exercises.
Participants were quite creative in the way they hid animal parts and derivatives in order to smuggle past the security checkpoints. One man put a can of caviar inside a paper cup under a scoop of melting ice cream, which he pretended to eat as he passed through customs control.
A female trainee from Kazakhstan walked through openly wearing an illegal ivory bracelet.
One participant smuggled a tortoise shell inside his baseball hat, which was hanging from his belt. Another successfully hid a stuffed crocodile head in his pants – which sparked a lot of laughter from participants.
While the smuggling exercise was in progress, we were joined by the airport’s head of the customs. He was very impressed and invited the training "passengers" to walk through the checkpoint with real customs officers on the job. It was no surprise our trainees were able to smuggle quite a lot of stuff.
By the end of the exercise, customs officers were watching with great interest -- and alarm – as the trainees pulled more and more illegal wildlife parts and derivatives from their pockets and bags and added them to the growing pile of "smuggled" wildlife parts on the floor.
IFAW has organized similar trainings for those fighting wildlife crime in Georgia (for the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belorussia, Ukraine, Moldova and Latvia), the countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East, Oceania and the Caribbean as well as East, Central and Southern Africa and Eastern Europe.
Watch the video of the training event below: