INTERPOL Trainings: Saving Elephants Through Educating Local Law Enforcement

IFAW CEO Fred O'Regan just after addressing an INTERPOL conference in 2010.

My experience with INTERPOL was limited - mainly just the scene in the movies when the guys in trenchcoats are called in to catch the villain. So it was quite a thrill to be invited to work on a project with INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme several months ago. And now I’m a bit daunted by the fact the programme is just around the corner!

The project is for a prevention of illegal wildlife trade training for law enforcement officials and broadly speaking, the goal is to teach law enforcement techniques with a specific wildlife angle. The session begins today in Gaborone, Botswana. We’ve invited police and wildlife officers from ten neighbouring countries to take part.

The expectation is that after six days of classes, exercises and drills they will go home; be it to Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi or elsewhere and bring new resources into the battle to save wildlife.

It’s no secret that wildlife trafficking represents a serious threat to the survival and conservation of many endangered species in Africa. Elephants and rhinos are two of the best known victims and most-threatened species but they are hardly alone.

I should point out that just because I haven’t worked with INTERPOL before the same cannot be said of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. On the contrary, there has been a long series of collaborations between the two organisations. In fact, for years IFAW has funded one of the Wildlife Crime Programme positions at INTERPOL headquarters in France.

Think of it as an investment in people that pays off for animals. I’ll have another blog posting focusing more on INTERPOL after I sit down and interview David Higgins, Manager of the Environmental Crime Programme at INTERPOL, who’s been instrumental in pulling this great training session together.

The curriculum of the training has been put together by experts from Environment Canada, who know a thing or two about wildlife. Instructors from Canada, as well as the IFAW and INTERPOL trainers will then go through the lessons. Some of them, like the interrogation techniques, will be quite exciting while other parts, such as preparing a court briefing, are equally important but perhaps a little less exciting to watch.

IFAW’s role in this training is to improve the welfare of confiscated animals. Taking proper care of a smuggled animal, if it is still alive, is a tremendously complicated task - as is rehabilitation and release.

There is also the proper handling of animals both for their sake and the protection of the law enforcement officer. Thinking about the thousands of animals smuggled every year it can be a lot to learn in just a few days. That’s why we provide reference books with identifying pictures, statistics and care techniques to the officers. That way the information can be kept and stored and incorporated into future trainings.

This training is a perfect example of what can happen when organisations with similar goals work together. IFAW is concerned about animals, both individually and as species, while INTERPOL focuses on stopping the international criminal syndicates involved in wildlife trafficking – training more people, where they are needed most, to catch the villains is in everyone’s best interest.

--Adrian Hiel

For more information on how you can help support the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world, visit

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