Entebbe, Uganda: A training workshop to increase the expertise of law enforcement officers tasked with tackling wildlife trafficking begins in Entebbe, Uganda Tuesday.
The training workshop is hosted by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in partnership with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). It aims to empower enforcement and intelligence officers from both Authorities to deter wildlife trafficking by providing them with the necessary skills, motivation and tools to effectively enforce wildlife trade laws, prevent illegal trade and enforce trade conventions. The training is part of a larger program called the Horn of Africa Wildlife Crime Prevention Program, which is funded by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and implemented in partnership with the IUCN Netherlands Committee and the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network. This two-year programme aims to prevent and combat wildlife crime in the Horn of Africa, which is emerging as a major region and hotspot for wildlife crime worldwide, both as a source and a transit route for illicit trafficking of wildlife products
During the training, interactive sessions will teach practical, hands-on skills used in the identification and correct handling of species commonly trafficked in the East Africa region, a transit and source hub in the illegal ivory supply trade chain.
“If there is one thing that we at IFAW have learned over the years is we cannot combat wildlife trafficking, and the ivory trade in particular, on our own. Effectively tackling the mounting challenges posed by illegal wildlife trade requires a coordinated, transnational, multi-agency approach and this is what makes training workshops like these so essential and critical,” stated Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of IFAW.
IFAW says that the scale of animal poaching and trafficking of high value wildlife species is on the rise and in need of an urgent response from the whole of society. Wildlife trafficking which involves amongst others elephant ivory, rhino horn, reptile skins, pangolins and leopard skins destroys biodiversity, damages local and national economies, damages human health and well-being, contributes to corruption and violence and causes immense cruelty and suffering to animals.
Speaking during the opening ceremony John Makombo, Director of Conservation of UWA who spoke on behalf of Dr. Andrew Seguya, Executive Director of UWA stated, “There has been significant progress in building the capacity of law enforcement agencies to curb illegal wildlife trade and other wildlife crimes in Uganda. Several staff of Uganda Wildlife Authority enforcement unit, Uganda Revenue Authority (Customs) and Uganda Police have undergone joint trainings in-country and outside the country in areas of prosecution, border control, crime scene management, investigations, crime intelligence to detect and prevent wildlife crime, case management and others aimed at equipping enforcement officers with skills and knowledge to curb illicit wildlife trade. New technologies and methodologies to curb wildlife crime including “Controlled Deliveries” are being explored to address current challenges of illicit wildlife trade”.
“It’s no longer a single law enforcement entity’s mandate to fight wildlife crime. It’s important that partnership is pursued and seen to be working. The organizations working against wildlife trafficking need to build strong networks as working together is not negotiable if we are to win this fight against wildlife trade,” stated Stephen Magera Acting Commission of Customs, URA .
“Recently, the East Africa Region has gained global notoriety as a hub for wildlife trafficking, especially ivory. Increased collaboration among law enforcement agencies is certainly the way to go in combatting wildlife crime in Uganda and the rest of the region, and the partnership between UWA, URA and IFAW only serves to strengthen this endeavour. IFAW is keen to share its regional networks to help fight these crimes” said James Isiche Regional Director IFAW East Africa.
Wildlife trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities – valued at billions of US dollars annually. It ranks in the top most lucrative transnational organized crimes, behind drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting. According to an IFAW report Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, ivory smuggling and the wildlife trade has been linked to other forms of organized crime including terrorism, illegal arms and drug trafficking.
Since 2007, IFAW has held more 81 training workshops on the prevention of wildlife trafficking where more than 2,811 officers from 38 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean have been trained. Trainings have been held in collaboration with national institutions in the respective countries and other organizations including Interpol, Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).