NAIROBI: Six African countries on Thursday renewed their commitment to combat wildlife crimes through cross border collaboration in surveillance, law enforcement and intelligence sharing.
Wildlife directors from the Eastern Africa elephant range states of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda stressed that strategic collaboration was key to contain loss of iconic species due to poaching and ecological calamities.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment Judi Wakhungu said wildlife crimes have reached alarming levels in the region, hence the need for joint efforts to contain them.
“Cooperative enforcement activities in fighting wildlife crimes in Africa will continue to be at the core of our strategic focus in conservation of our wildlife heritage,” Wakhungu told wildlife directors attending a regional conference in Nairobi.
The Nairobi-based Lusaka Agreement Taskforce (LATF) and multilateral agencies organized the regional wildlife forum attended by policymakers, parks managers and law enforcement officers in the region.
Wakhungu emphasized that sharing of best practices, harmonization of policies and legislation are key to boost the war against illegal trade in wildlife products across the Eastern African region.
“In this region, poaching of elephants has reached unprecedented levels and it is high time we acted jointly, decisively and swiftly in order to reverse this trend,” said Wakhungu.
She regretted that disjointed legal and policy frameworks, insufficient technical skills and poor intelligence sharing were hampering the fight against wildlife crimes in the region.
“Fighting wildlife crimes requires us to work together and pool our scarce financial, human and information resources in order to be successful,” Wakhungu added.
Kenya is signatory to regional and global instruments that promote wildlife protection.
Wakhungu said besides enacting deterrent laws, the Kenyan government had strengthened collaboration with regional and global wildlife conservation groups to contain poaching.
The Eastern African region is home to a huge repository of iconic species that have lately faced human and environmental threats like poaching, human encroachment on their habitat and climate change.
Bonaventure Ebayi, LATF Director, revealed that half of the eight countries in the eastern African region have been listed by Conventionon International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as major source, transit and destinations affected by illegal ivory trade.
“We need to adopt pragmatic approaches and institute strategic thinking in countering transboundary wildlife crimes that have become sophisticated and well resourced,” Ebayi said.
He lauded regional initiatives that have led to arrest of poachers alongside seizure of trophies at ports of entry.
“Intercontinental law enforcement operation conducted recently led to arrest of more than 300 suspects as well as 600 seizures of assorted wildlife contraband,” Ebayi said, adding that Kenya and Tanzania have recorded a dramatic slump in poaching.