Africa urged to use dogs to combat wildlife trafficking


Joseph Muraya, Capital News

Date Published

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NAIROBI, KENYA: As wildlife crime continues to be sophisticated, experts continues to adopt technological measures to curb it, but with time, it has proven not 100 per cent effective.

And thus the need for a more effective way to deal with the menace, by ensuring those behind poaching and trafficking of animal products are brought to book, and in a timely manner.

This is why, experts have recommended man’s best friend -dogs – to fill in the gap that is left by all other advancements and they say it is working going with many success stories across the country and other African states.

In Kenya alone, there were more 15 recoveries of wildlife products in various points of entries like the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Moi International Airport, Mombasa Port among others.

Head of Kenya Wildlife Prosecution Unit Florence Magoma says the use of detecting dogs has proven successful but laments that there are glaring legal loopholes.

“The use of detecting dogs has been very successful. In a country like Uganda at Entebbe International Airport, with the dogs, they have many recoveries of animal products being illegally trafficked,” she said during an Interview with Capital FM News.

Though an ‘effective’ move to use detection dogs to combat wildlife trafficking in Africa, Magoma says the country solely uses past judicial pronouncements to admit such evidence.

“If it is not spelled out in the law, what are we following?” she wondered.

She pointed out that, “the law is not moving fast as the technology.”

“These legal loopholes need to be addressed. If it was not for the judicial pronouncements, we would be operating in the dark. Kenya and any other jurisdictions, when you are taking something to court, there is a law of evidence that you must follow.”

The Kenya Wildlife Service has 25 highly trained dogs, strategically positioned across all points of entries in the country.

– Why the Use of Dogs is Efficient –

Africa Wildlife Foundation Vice President for species conservation Philip Muruthi says unlike human beings, the well-trained canines are not corruptible.

“We are in a poaching crisis in Africa; we are not out of it,” he said.

He says trained dogs also have an ability to detect fane scents of ivory, that human can’t.

“They are doing a good job,” he said.

This coupled with stringent laws, he says will help in bringing to an end the menace of poaching and trafficking.

In the case of Kenya, there are tough laws against wildlife crime but he says they need to be enforced more.

“The law in some countries is very weak…” he said.

Poaching claims 35,000 elephants each year within Africa and three rhinos a day, according to Muruthi.

If the trend continues, he fears that the remaining 25,000 rhinos in Africa will become extinct in a few years.

According to Head of Wildlife Prosecution Division at the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions Wangui Gichuhi, Kenya has registered successful litigations, where initial evidence was produced though dog detection.

“It is important that these canines we understand how they are being trained, how to use that evidence in court and we also as a prosecutor understand how we can explain to court on how the evidence was retrieved…” she said.

They were speaking during a regional Wildlife Judicial and Prosecutorial Assistance Training Series on management and admissibility of canine evidence conference. 

– About the Conference –

The key outcome of the three-day conference is enhanced enforcement to stop the trafficking of wildlife products by using wildlife detection dogs as an emerging law enforcement tool in Africa.

“Enhanced enforcement will ensure effective investigations, prosecutions, and sentences that are deterrent enough to discourage wildlife traffickers. The conference also aims to bring stakeholders together from across Africa to ensure collaboration and support in combating wildlife trafficking,” Muruthi said.

Through the training, they hope to increase the understanding and general knowledge of the participants on wildlife law enforcement using wildlife detection dogs, understand the evidentiary and procedural considerations when using wildlife detection dogs and understand the proper administration of wildlife cases relying on detection dog evidence.

They also hope to come up with collaborative mechanisms and inter-agency communication to enhance success of detection dogs.

Those participating in the conference include detection dog handlers, wildlife crime prosecutors, wildlife crime investigators, airport security officials and customs officials from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana, Cameroon, Zambia and South Sudan.