Gaborone — Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Mr Neil Fitt is optimistic that the formation of Wildlife Enforcement Network for Southern Africa (WENSA) will help in the fight against poaching and trafficking of iconic wildlife species.
Giving welcome remarks at WENSA two-day annual workshop in Gaborone recently, Mr Fitt said the realisation by Southern African states that a coordinated effort was required to combat the spiraling poaching of some species such as African elephant, rhino and large cats, was a step in the right direction.
This decision, he reminded the workshop, was taken in 2013 to gather in Gaborone to agree on a number of resolutions to tackle the problem which, he said, had the potential to disproportionately affect the region’s tourism coffers.
The permanent secretary said since Southern African tourism is mostly wildlife based, there was no how this decision of collectively fighting the problem together could have been overlooked or avoided because tourism brings in the much needed revenue for respective countries.
The last year’s meeting agreed on a number of resolutions which included inter alia, the need to operationalise existing international, continental and regional wildlife protection commitments and initiatives and implement relevant SADC protocols by establishing a network of national wildlife law enforcement agencies to be known as WENSA.
It was also resolved to establish at the national level a WENSA committee consisting of officials from relevant organisations which shall be responsible for coordinating each member country’s activities in relation to wildlife enforcement.
The meeting further resolved to ensure that WENSA national focal points facilitate information and intelligence exchange, between and among themselves and other relevant non-WENSA law enforcement agencies to the extent allowed by national laws, to support poaching investigations, arrests and prosecutions of wildlife crimes in all WENSA countries.
“It is only through deliberate sharing of information and intelligence through a formally recognised structure such as the WENSA that we can begin to get to grips with the wildlife crime scourge that confronts us all,” he said. The objectives of the workshop was to review foundation documents, including terms of reference for the WENSA; discuss procedural, institutional, and financial arrangements for the network, and engage in an
The workshop which was funded by the American Embassy in Botswana and co-hosted by the government and American Embassy is expected to attract funding for a desk officer at WENSA secretariat in Gaborone and other international donors.
It attracted wildlife officials from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as representatives from SADC, Interpol, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the EU and ASEAN.