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Regional networks to combat wildlife trafficking

 



Nairobi (Kenya), 21 November 2018
- A broad network of law enforcement officers working on wildlife and timber trafficking issues has gathered in Nairobi (Kenya) to discuss cooperation on interception, investigation, and prosecution of wildlife crime cases involving Africa and Asia.

The Wildlife Inter-Regional Enforcement (WIRE) meeting was held on 19-21 November 2018 and was organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife of the Republic of Kenya and UNODC, in the context of activities of the International Consortium for Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

It brought together 100 customs and police officers, wildlife officials, financial investigators, and prosecutors from 8 Asian and 12 African countries with the aim of improving Africa-Asia cooperation through the identification of risk indicators, promotion of the exchange of information and good practices for further enforcement responses to wildlife crime.  Representatives of several international organisations and NGOs also shared information and intelligence that fed into the discussions.

"It is evident that illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products pose a threat to national, regional, and international conservation efforts.  As a global community, we need to enhance local and regional cooperation in order to guarantee the security of our national heritage.  The success in fighting wildlife crime cannot be carried out by only the wildlife authorities nor the prosecutors but all of us here today," said Julius Kimani, director of Parks and Reserves Kenya Wildlife Service.

Previous WIRE meetings such as the WIRE Police (Bangkok 2016), WIRE Prosecution (Bangkok 2017), and WIRE Customs (Hanoi, 2017) identified areas of cooperation on investigations, the use of mutual legal assistance, and common risk indicators.

Specialised working groups drawn from police, prosecutors, wildlife and customs officials, along with the finance sector and international experts considered a range of topics including transportation routes, techniques for financial investigation, including asset forfeiture and anti-money laundering operations, and enhancing transnational wildlife trafficking investigations through the exchange of information and mutual legal assistance.

"I think that this WIRE meeting offered a unique opportunity to practitioners in very specific fields of the criminal justice system to identify technical solutions by respecting the added value that each of you bring to the table." said Ms. Miwa Kato, UNODC Director of Division of Operations, at the end of the meeting. "Who better than Customs officers know how to target high-risk containers or passengers? Who better than analysts from the Financial Intelligence Units know how to identify suspicious transactions? Who better than police and prosecutors know how to investigate and prosecute organized crime? Nobody, but at the same time it is important to recognize that the work conducted by each of these practitioners impacts heavily on the ability of the others to perform well their role."

The delegates committed to leaving no stone unturned in the hunt for those criminals involved at every stage of supply chain from poachers in African countries to buyers in Asian nations and emphasised that cooperation in both investigations and in judicial proceedings was the key to dismantling the organised criminal groups behind the trade.

"Kenya, and indeed Africa cannot solve these problems in isolation," remarked Hon. Najib Balala, EGH, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife of the Republic of Kenya.  "It is clear to me that if we pool our resources, share information, work together, look for new and innovative solutions we can progress faster, work more effectively and become increasingly successful."

Quotes from participants:
"The opportunity to meet delegates from Africans allows me to see how difficult source countries have to work to protect wildlife.  However, if ASEAN countries have a strong network and use asset freezing, along with reasonable tools and budget, this will impact criminal groups and help detect patterns."

"I learned about similar and different frameworks from FIU colleagues in each country.  I exchanged experiences from various institutions which is beneficial in terms of coordination in my line of work in the future."

"I gained connection to coordinate in wildlife crime prevention both in ASEAN and in Africa and understood the current wildlife situation.  The workshop on transportation allowed me to understand the problems and difficulties in cooperation through operation work between domestic institutions of some countries.  I had exchanged information on risks and arrests of each country.  This meeting allowed transit or destination countries like ASEAN and China to be aware of the importance of wildlife trafficking and have better ideas on measures to be stricter in prevention and suppression.  I think China showed their dedication and cooperation to outreach in catching syndicates in the country and requesting cooperation with other countries to share intelligence."

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crime in the region.

Click here to learn more about the Asia Wildlife Enforcement and Demand Management Project, funded by the European Union.