Efforts to combat organised crime on wildlife have received new impetus thanks to the first ever training programme aimed at enhancing knowledge and skills on law enforcers.
The one week specialised training on controlled delivery is currently underway, with seventeen participants in attendance from various agencies namely Wildlife, Forestry, Customs, Police and Drug Enforcement/Anti-narcotics in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
The Commissioner of Police-Operations and Training, representing the Inspector General of Tanzania Police Force Mr Awadhi Juma Haji said in Dar es Salaam on Monday that the aim of the programme is to enhance skills and knowledge of law enforcement personnel, responsible for combating organised wildlife crime in the region, in undertaking wildlife crime investigations including financial investigations and executing asset forfeiture.
“The sophistication and scope of organised criminal syndicates far outweigh the individual capacities of agencies and point to the fact that illegal wildlife trade is increasingly becoming a challenge and seriously undermining our law enforcement efforts,” he said.
The programme, which is the first of its kind in Africa, is designed to provide practical training and is part of a series of capacity building events organised and facilitated by Lusaka Agreement Task Force, Grace Farms Foundation and University of Washington and funded by UNDP, USAID, Global Wildlife Programme and Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The programme also seeks to cultivate synergy, foster cooperation and build capacity among the participants.
It involves practical and classroom training on Controlled Delivery, Undercover, Surveillance, Financial Investigation, Search and Arrest Warrants and DNA Analysis/Forensic Examinations as well as mentoring of law enforcement officers in the three countries to effectively follow up on seaport and airport wildlife seizures and promote international cooperation on wildlife crime investigations.
He reiterated that bolstering capacity and collaboration among law enforcement agencies through increased surveillance and information sharing is a crucial step towards effectively fighting the scourge of wildlife crime.
He observed that success in combating wildlife crime requires cooperative enforcement efforts, and we must work together and pool our scarce financial, human, and information resources.
The key to addressing this challenge lies in implementing effective and best practices in cooperative law enforcement, which are essential for proactive, well-planned, and purposeful enforcement interventions,” said Mr Edward Phiri, Director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force.
He also acknowledged that the training provides an opportunity for participants to share their accomplishments, expertise, knowledge and experiences related to operations, intelligence and investigations.
Mr Rod Khattabi pointed out that innovative training is a panacea for effective law enforcement.
He reiterated that the training, which is a first in Africa involving real time scenario planning, role play and execution in the field, will equip the participants with requisite hands-on and practical skills in undertaking complex investigations.
The UNDP representative emphasized that law enforcement is essential in mitigating illicit wildlife trade. It is inevitable to do this through enhanced international and interagency cooperation, he added.
He affirmed that UNDP’s port project will continue to support such capacity building activities nationally and internationally.
According to GEF, the value of illegal trade has been estimated at between 7 US dollars and 23 billion US dollars per year, making wildlife crime one of the most lucrative illegal businesses, often run by sophisticated, international, and well-organised criminal networks seeking to exploit the high rewards and low risks of the trade.
Wildlife criminals target elephants, rhinos, pangolins, various bird species, timber and other assorted plants for smuggling out of Africa to a number of destinations in Asia.
Upskilling enforcement officers is therefore integral in stamping out this vice that is depriving countries enormous resources that would otherwise be useful in sustainable economic development.