NAIVASHA, Kenya — On Monday, law enforcement and wildlife officials from eight African countries joined African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), FREELAND Foundation and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to launch a new program aimed at increasing wildlife traffickers' risk of detection, arrest and conviction. The program, called Africa's Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking, or ARREST, will sensitize members of the wildlife and law enforcement community to the scale of the global trade; improve application of available legal mechanisms to address organized wildlife crime; and provide the latest techniques and technologies for information collection, analysis, surveillance and criminal asset recovery. ARREST is being launched on the first day of a week-long, wildlife trafficking training course in Naivasha.
"We are excited that KWS was chosen to host this ground-breaking international training," says Robert Muasya, the Kenya Wildlife Service Deputy Director Security. "This will no doubt enhance cross-border and regional collaboration in the fight against wildlife crime which has been on the increase in the region. The training accords the officers being trained a great opportunity to interact with colleagues whom they can always contact in future when pursuing cross-border wildlife criminal gangs."
Law enforcement representatives from Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are attending the training, alongside representatives from the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, INTERPOL the United Nations, and the U.S. government. Investigative teams established under ARREST in Africa will engage with investigative teams under a similar ARREST program in Asia—supported by the U.S. government—in an effort to jointly disrupt the illicit wildlife trade.
Training materials and curricula developed by FREELAND Foundation for front-line personnel in Asia have been adapted to the African context and will provide senior law enforcement investigators with the skills needed to conduct major trans-boundary investigations into criminal organizations. Competency-based training will also be provided to mid- and senior-level officials, including police, customs and prosecutors, who can use the materials to also enhance the capacity of their home agencies.
"With global criminal syndicates moving wildlife efficiently along the supply chain from poaching fields in Africa to markets in Asia, we have designed a program that will unite African and Asian law enforcement and conservationists to stop them," says Steve Galster, founder and executive director of FREELAND Foundation.
African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), through its Urgent Response Fund, has invested heavily in anti-poaching and anti-trafficking initiatives, including a new Conservation Canine Programme that trains canine detection units to monitor and patrol seaports, airports and other major chokepoints through which wildlife products are trafficked. In addition, prosecutorial and judicial training based on a review of existing policies and legal reviews will help lead to more consistent and deterrent sentencing of convicted wildlife traffickers.
"We need to not only increase the level of law enforcement and detection but also to be innovative in order to stay ahead of the criminals who are taking away our valuable heritage," says Dr. Philip Muruthi, African Wildlife Foundation's vice president of species protection. "The economic value of Africa's wildlife can only be realized with initiatives like this being driven from within Africa while collaborating with our global partners."
Since 2007, IFAW has held more than 76 training workshops on the prevention of wildlife trafficking where more than 2,600 officers from 37 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) and national wildlife and conservation institutions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Tanzania at the Horn of Africa.
Says IFAW Program Director for Wildlife Trade Kelvin Alie: "Given the prevailing levels of wildlife crime in the world, there is a need to improve the capacity for collaboration amongst law enforcement agencies through information sharing. Fighting wildlife crime requires concerted efforts involving pooling financial, human and information resources. We must share intelligence because this is one of the most critical prerequisites to effectively fight the ever-increasing sophistication in wildlife crime."
The ARREST program will build on existing regional initiatives to combat trans-boundary wildlife crime, according to the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), an inter-governmental organization established in 1996.
"The collaboration through such an initiative demonstrates our collective effort as partners in bolstering capacities of our law enforcement officers and prosecutors, which is critical in combating illegal exploitation of wild fauna and flora in Africa," says LATF Director Bonaventure Ebayi.
MEDIA CONTACTS: AWF: (U.S.) Kathleen Garrigan, +1 202 939 3326, firstname.lastname@example.org or (Kenya) Beatrice Karanja, + 254 735 632811, email@example.com FREELAND: Sean O'Regan, +254 726 226 329, firstname.lastname@example.org IFAW: Jacqueline Nyagah, +254 734 929293; email@example.com
About ARREST Africa Africa's Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking, or ARREST Africa, is designed to be a holistic continent-wide program that increases capacity and cross-border communication at the national, regional and international level to combat wildlife trafficking and poaching. ARREST Africa, linking to the existing ARREST Asia program, will assist African governments to establish national and regional operational wildlife crime task forces. The comprehensive program protects the source, detects and dismantles the supply chain and criminal networks, and targets the end user by: enhancing capacity of enforcement officers to protect habitats and investigate cross-border crime; caring for and repatriating confiscated wildlife; building a support base in civil society through a powerful communications program; and partnering with local communities in the development of alternative livelihoods. With support from the U.S. government, several regions of Africa are looking to establish intergovernmental and multi-agency Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs) that work closely with agencies such as the Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices of the World Customs Organization, INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to combat trans-boundary wildlife crime. ARREST partners include The U.S Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, African Wildlife Foundation, Freeland Foundation, and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
About African Wildlife Foundation Founded in 1961 and headquartered in Kenya, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. Together with the people of Africa, AWF works to ensure the continent's wildlife and wild lands endure forever. For more information, visit www.awf.org.
FREELAND Foundation Freeland Foundation, with offices in Kenya, Thailand, South Asia, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil, is a non-profit organization registered in both Thailand, as a Thai Foundation, and the United States as a 501(c)3. It enables governments and the public to combat wildlife and human trafficking. For more information visit www.freeland.org
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org.