Partner spotlight: INTERPOL training efforts offer illumination in Mozambique
Animals do not own passports. They do not know which nation they belong to, and for them country borders are meaningless.
A badger from Wales would see a badger from Turkey as just another badger. No flags, no accents, no “cultural clash”.
A minke whale from Iceland would simply be unaware that its risk of being harpooned has drastically been reduced when it casually swims a few miles off the island.
And, of course, an elephant in the Kruger National Park may be browsing an acacia, with its tail in South Africa and its trunk in Mozambique.
We humans, on the other hand, we do have passports, we do have nationalities, we do have “cultural identities”. Sometimes we use them with pride as part of our diversity…sometimes we abuse them as part of our criminal enterprises.
The latter is the backbone of the illegal wildlife trade.
It is a sad fact that as there is demand for wildlife products such as elephant ivory and rhino horn which can only be obtained in certain African countries, someone somewhere will be willing to procure them if they are paid highly enough.
The international wildlife trade is ruthless and often illegal and as part of our fight against this criminal activity, IFAW works to train law enforcers all over the world.
With the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s help, INTERPOL organised a one-week wildlife crime enforcement course in Maputo for Mozambican law enforcement authorities. Such training initiatives have been going on for many years in various African countries, but somehow countries whose official languages are not French or English seem to have been left a bit behind.
This is now starting to be addressed with this course given by police trainers from Portugal and Brazil as Portuguese is the official language in Mozambique. I also speak Portuguese which is why I was asked to represent IFAW.
I found the experience illuminating.
It’s very easy to pass judgement about illegal poaching without having visited the places where the poaching takes place. It’s easy to assume that the problem of wildlife crime is caused by corruption and a disregard for the law, and by a lack of understanding of conservation and animal welfare.
In fact, it is much simpler than that. In Mozambique, it seems, it is actually because they do not have the right “tools” to protect wildlife, more than anything else. Such tools are basically the right laws which act as a real deterrent and are easily enforceable, the right knowledge about how poachers and traders operate between borders and countries, and the right resources to implement efficient enforcement operations. This INTERPOL course was designed to begin supplying some of these tools to those in Mozambique who want to use them.
More than 20 trainees participated in this intensive course, some of whom had travelled for three days in order to get to the training.
I was impressed by how much effort many of these officials make to stop poaching and illegal trade with very little resources available, facing very hostile attitudes in the field and even risking their lives.
I was humbled by their attitude and resilience, and I realised that, in addition to training them in wildlife crime enforcement techniques, it is very important that they receive logistical support and that the wildlife legislation they have available is improved, as without robust laws robust enforcement cannot be expected.
It was also quite clear to me that Mozambique will not be able to solve the elephant and rhino poaching problem if demand coming from Asian countries such as China is not curbed. This is why IFAW works both with African countries to help them tackle elephant poaching and also through our office in China to address the demand there.
As Marco Araujo de Lima (the representative of INTERPOL headquarters) put it in one of his speeches during the course,
“our work is like the work of a hummingbird trying to put out a forest fire with tiny drop of water at the time. It may look small on the face of the size of the problem, but what is important is that we all do our part, because for that animal that has been saved because of that tiny effort, that part is not tiny, but in fact is huge”.
I am glad IFAW is lending helping hand in Mozambique too.