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KWS statement of Africa's Largest Action Against Wildlife Crime

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  Jan Tuesday, 18 November 2008 16:42

KWS statement of Africa's Largest Action Against Wildlife Crime

Africa's Largest-Ever International Action Against Wildlife Crime
Monday, November 17, 2008



Kenya Wildlife Service, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and INTERPOL took part in what was billed as Africa’s largest-ever international operation against wildlife crime.  
The INTERPOL coordinated operation across five African countries led to the arrest of 57 suspected illegal wildlife product dealers and the seizure of 1000 kg of powdered, carved and raw items of ivory. 

The international sweep targeting local ivory markets, airports, border crossings and smuggling points also netted cheetah, leopard, serval cat and python skins, as well as hippo teeth.
The operation code-named Operation Baba, led to the arrests and seizures in a five-country law enforcement action coordinated by INTERPOL.
In Kenya, a total of 36 suspected ivory dealers were arrested and 113 pieces of ivory weighing 358 kg seized in the four-month operation. The suspects, most of whom were found outside national parks and reserves, included three Chinese nationals and local dealers, mainly brokers and poachers. Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Police are still pursuing four other suspects who escaped.

The raids over the weekend were a culmination of a four-month undercover operation aimed at curbing illicit ivory. The simultaneous operation, whose planning started in June 2008, was coordinated by INTERPOL and supported by the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group.  It was initiated as a result of a request made to INTERPOL by African elephant range states to help the continent deal with illegal elephant killings. Kenya served as the coordination centre for the simultaneous operation in other participating countries namely Congo Brazzaville, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia.

The operation was code-named Project Baba in honour of Gilbert Baba, a Ghanaian ranger who was killed a decade ago by poachers in the line of duty. 

All the participating countries simultaneously struck at the illegal domestic markets over the weekend in a coordinated manner to ensure that illegal ivory dealers who would try to cross borders were intercepted.

A total of 10 KWS field units in areas most prone to illegal ivory trade and trafficking in Kenya participated in the operation. The Kenya Police, Lusaka Agreement Task force, National Security Intelligence Service, Customs Department, the Judiciary and the INTERPOL supported KWS. The operation was conducted in Nairobi, Amboseli, Tsavo East, Mombasa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Narok, Maralal, Nakuru and Aberdares.

“KWS used various specialised law enforcement units to conduct the operation. It is also in the process of modernising and enhancing its law enforcement capacity through the acquisition of ivory detectors, and other specialised security equipment, in order to counter wildlife crimes more efficiently,” said the KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich.
He added: “Project Baba was a huge success in Kenya. We in KWS strongly believe that ivory trade fuels illegal killing of elephants. The project was, therefore, a blessing to the African range states whose elephants have declined tremendously over the years.”  

 Illegal domestic ivory markets have been persistently identified by nature conservation agencies - including the United Nations-administered Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) - as a major factor in continued poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory.  Operation Baba was planned to address that problem. 

The Director of INTERPOL’s Operational Assistance Services and Infrastructure Support (OASIS) programme, Mr. Giuliano Zaccardelli, said that OASIS is committed to assisting countries in Africa to mount such operations by enhancing their capacity to address crime threats nationally, regionally and globally.

"Co-operation among countries in East, West and Southern Africa against wildlife crime has set an inspired example. Similar operations could also be conducted in Asia, the Americas and in any other region where criminal interests, including trafficking in illegal wildlife products, are common,” Mr. Zaccardelli said.

The operation was coordinated by the INTERPOL General Secretariat, based in Lyon, France, and involved the participation of agencies that are members of the INTERPOL Working Group on Wildlife Crime.  Support was also provided by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), created in 1994 by governments in the region as a mechanism for regional co-operation to fight illegal trade in wild animals and plants. More than 300 staff from the police, customs, wildlife agencies, national intelligence agencies and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force were involved in the operation across the different countries.

The German Federal Government, as part of the INTERPOL General Secretariat Project OASIS initiative, provided funding to support this significant operation with additional support from The Humane Society of Canada, Humane Society International, and IFAW - the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Born Free Foundation, as well as by the participating agencies.

According to the INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble, Operation Baba is the first in a series of operations of this nature being planned worldwide.  He underlined the need for an international perspective in fighting such crimes.

"International co-operation is key to law enforcement today.  With the ‘globalisation’ of criminal syndicates, people who abide by the law have no alternative than to confront those syndicates in the international arena,” said Mr. Noble. “This is where INTERPOL's core function of operational police support services, which can facilitate co-operation between law enforcement agencies in multiple countries, proves its worth."

Further contacts:
Rachael Billington
Chief Media Officer
INTERPOL General Secretariat
Tel:       +33 472 447 212
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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