Combatting wildlife trafficking through training law enforcement officers

Law enforcement

Samuel Mutua, IFAW Wildlife Trade Program Officer, writes about a recent training in Uganda.

Wildlife trafficking is a major concern at the moment.

Hardly a week goes by before reports seizure of a consignment of ivory at a port of entry, an arrest of an individual with lion skin or a trader apprehended with counterfeit CITES documents. With vast resources and different flora and fauna species, Africa is a hot spot for poaching and smuggling any type of wildlife and their products.

Eastern and Central Africa are the main sources of most trafficked wildlife; with the Horn of Africa being a transit zone to the various markets around the world. Lack of capacity, communication and knowledge of officers at border points from Customs, CITES Management Authorities and police are some of the major reasons that this kind of trafficking thrives in these regions.

To remedy this situation the International Fund for Animal Welfare conducted a training from 18th – 22nd May 2015 on the Prevention of Wildlife Trafficking in Kampala, Uganda. The training was held in collaboration with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

A total of nine countries drawn from East, Central and Horn of Africa were represented by a record number of 71 participants from CITES Management Authorities, Customs and Interpol. The countries were Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Out of the five day training, the participants had their capacity built on:

  • Identification of wildlife species using the CITES Appendices
  • Methods used in wildlife smuggling
  • Intelligence policing and investigative techniques
  • Disposal of confiscated animal products
  • Welfare of confiscated live animals

This was achieved through various lessons conducted by the trainers with adequate interesting practical lessons and field visits. The epitome of the training was a field study at the Entebbe International Airport where participants learnt different identification techniques using scanners at the cargo department.

By the end of five-day training, the participants had also created crucial networking channels which will come in handy in sharing information amongst themselves on a cross-border level regarding wildlife trafficking and eventually lead to less wildlife smuggling.

--SM

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