The International police organization, known as Interpol, pledged Monday to assist the East Africa region to build a regional intelligence database as part of effort to combat wildlife crime.
Interpol Assistant Director in charge of the Environmental Security Sub-Directorate David Higgins told a media briefing in Nairobi that the information will help dismantle criminal wildlife syndicates.
“We want the region to rely on intelligence analysis to eliminate illegal wildlife crime,” Higgins said during the launch of the Interpol Environmental Security Office regional bureau.
The office, based in Nairobi, will serve 13 countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Seychelles and Djibouti. It will work on a number of environmental issues with a particular focus on addressing the illegal trafficking of ivory and rhinoceros horn.
The region’s population of elephants and rhinos has been threatened with extinction as a result of illegal wildlife trade.
“We will ensure the region launches targeted responses against the criminal networks,” the director said, adding that illegal wildlife crime is a transnational crime that requires greater collaboration among countries.
Interpol is planning to expand its presence in Eastern Africa so as to help national governments combat poaching and other forms of environmental crime. Interpol’s Environmental Security Office will assist in enhancing cooperation between government, the private sector and NGOs, and thus boost the capacity of law enforcement agencies to act against the illicit wildlife trade
Kenya Wildlife Service Communication Manager Paul Udoto said that Kenya is seeking collaboration with regional and international partners to eliminate illegal wildlife crime.
Kenya has emerged as a major source and transit point for illegal wildlife crime. “We want to leverage on Interpol’s experience on combating other crimes in order to save our wildlife species,” Udoto said.
Kenya’s tourism industry depends on its wildlife resources and beach destinations, and conservationists have blamed the continued poaching on the ready markets for the criminal networks that harvest the ivory.
The demand mainly emanates from Asia, which has pushed the price of a 1 kg of ivory from 100 U.S. dollars in the 1970s to over 1,500 dollars currently in the black market.