The American government is aware of several international syndicates that focus on poaching as their main source of income.
In an effort to combat this growing cross-border crime, the American Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement is working with several countries, including Namibia.
During a teleconference held last week Thursday, the deputy assistant secretary in the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Daniel Foote, told members of the media that he could not provide any details regarding the syndicates as the matter was under investigation.
However, he did say that it was encouraging that through the cooperation with American authorities, there has been an increase in the confiscation of contraband as well as arrests.
He made mention of the two international senior managers who were arrested for trading in ivory through a joint operation between Congolese, Zambian and American agencies.
At the Entebbe airport in Uganda, at least 30 consignments of ivory have been confiscated this year, he said.
“We are currently working with Namibia and law enforcement agents are attending all the training opportunities we offer.”
According to Foote, Namibia is one of the countries where cooperation has reaped the greatest rewards and is one of the few that has an early-warning system in place.
During July, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), along with the US, donated N$23.4 million to the environment ministry to combat the illegal trade in wildlife products. The donation was made available by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.
Implementation of these conservation projects will be done along with the Intelligence Support Against Poaching (Isap) group, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), the Natural Resources Working Group and the Save the Rhino Trust.
Foote told members of the media that the illegal trade in wildlife was not only destructive to the environment but undermined justice, encouraged corruption and advanced instability.
His bureau is currently active in 30 countries, working to strengthen legal frameworks and fighting wildlife crime and Namibia is one of the five countries where the bureau is directly involved. The other countries are South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya.
Zambia and Malawi are soon to follow suit. A training centre in Gaborone, Botswana facilitates this work.
Foote said they were cooperating with the United Nations as well as Interpol. His government had allocated US$50 million to combat wildlife crime and more than half of this had been used in Africa.
He added that financial losses were great for countries where poaching was rife.
“Poaching is a low-risk, high-income activity. Often, punishment for these criminals is far too lenient as it is considered an environmental matter and not international crime.”
Foote said there was increasing evidence that terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, Al Shaabab and the Lord’s Resistance Army were using wildlife products to finance their operations.
“These criminal organisations exploit poor communities who are the ones to deliver the poached products to the middlemen. Bribery is also common where environmental and customs officers are bribed to let products through.”