Tag Archives: law enforcement

Good news for Wildlife Conservation as DPP sets up Wildlife Crimes Unit in Kenya

March 3, 2014…
The Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Keriako Tobiko, has swiftly moved to boost the local wildlife and environmental conservation efforts by setting up a fully-fledged Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit.

The unit is, headed by the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Kioko Kamula, and is, mandated to provide prosecutorial services for all offences committed contrary to the recently enacted Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013. The unit comprises of 35 Prosecutors who have already undergone specialist training.

Officers drawn from the unit are also part of a team reviewing the new law on wildlife (Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013) and are, expected to propose suitable amendments to facilitate its efficient application.

Among other milestones, the new unit has already developed a rapid reference guide and model charge sheets on provisions of the law relating to wildlife offences.

“As the world celebrates the World Wildlife Day today, the ODPP wishes to reaffirm its commitment towards protection of our wildlife, which is our national heritage,” Tobiko said.

And added: “The DPP is fully committed to work with all state and non-state actors in the wildlife conservation and criminal justice sectors, to ensure that the law is robustly applied against offenders.We urge increased cooperation and support from all stakeholders and the wider public.”

 As part of the Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit’s role, the ODPP has also established a working committee with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to coordinate investigation and prosecution processes as well as conduct joint trainings.

 A standard operating procedure (SoP) manual for the prosecution of wildlife crimes has also been developed and shared with all stakeholders at the second National Dialogue on wildlife crimes.

 

Ends

Record ivory seizure in Malaysia – Africa cannot afford to be helpless

Royal Malaysian Customs have just announced the seizure of 24 tons of ivory in Port Klang. This is the largest ever seizure of ivory in transit through the country, and is equal in size to all of the ivory seized in  2011 from Africa. The 1,500 pieces of ivory came from over 750 elephants were exported from Togo, a tiny west African country that has fewer than 200 elephants. The ivory was hidden in containers containing wooden crates that were built to look like stacks of sawn timber. The two crates were shipped from the port of Lomé in Togo, and was going to China via Algeria, Spain and Malaysia. Here are some reactions on text, twitter and facebook

“What the hell is going on?”

“Oh My God, this is Crazy! There must be some major crime ring in this. Chinese Mafia?”

“very sad”

“Folks, that’s 750 dead elephants right there! Completely atrocious.”

“When will these countries see the light? Money,money,Money thats all it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Disgusting”

While the rest of the world is in a state of shock at the scale of the seizure, Bonadventure Ebayi, CEO of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force the African Interpol for wildlife, says he is not surprised. Togo has virtually no law enforcement to speak of. It is a country through which timber from other central African countries is exported by both China and Malaysia. The ivory, he believes, came from several central African countries.

The size of this shipment reveals that it probably took months for the dealers to accumulate this volume of ivory and it was brought in on small boats plying the waters in this area. Togo is notorious for slack enforcement and is considered something of a free port with zero law enforcement.  The dealers of this ivory, clearly operated without any hindrance. They are probably a mafia like syndicate, took their time in packing the consignment, and the shipping route was not direct, but a rather lazy route via several other countries. Asked if there were officials involved Bonadventure laughed cynically “nothing would make a consignment of 1 ton, or even 500 kg of ivory through a port without corrupt practices”. He emphasizes that the smuggling of trophies is only possible through corrupt practices. The Togolese government seems not to care about the illegal trade going on at Lome and neither is it likely that the Malaysian or Chinese governments will do anything about this seizure.

Apart from one seizure of ivory in Singapore from several African countries which was returned to Kenya and later burned, none of seizures of African ivory in Asia have been returned to the country of origin. Investigations are not carried out, and there is no system of monitoring the specimens. At the end of the day this ivory will become “owned” by Malaysia.

The reason for this apparent lapse in investigations and monitoring of illegal ivory is money, or rather, lack of money. The law enforcement agencies of Africa are extremely poorly resourced in terms of man power, equipment and funds considering the work that they are expected to do.  The ivory syndicates are operating on mega budgets of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. African enforcement agencies which are expected to monitor all ports, and all wildlife, are cash strapped.

Moreover, there is a general lack of political will in the governments concerned. Many African countries wildlife agencies are dependent on support from the US Fish and Wildlife Agency, which is its self a national agency in USA, not an international agency. The US Fish and Wildlife Agency receives it’s funding from the US government. Why aren’t African governments financing their wildlife agencies adequately? International agencies and CITES agencies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on monitoring elephants and writing reports for CITES conferences – their budgets often exceeding those of the government agencies. The reports often say that the problem is that law enforcement is lacking in Africa. It’s a tail chasing exercise. Hillary Clinton has raised concern in Congress about the scale of illegal trade of wildlife in Africa, but the silence from African leaders is deafening. Not one of them has echoed her call for addressing the problem.

AFrican governments have lamented for too long that there is inadequate funding for wildlife conservation, enforcement and security. We need to rethink our priorities in Africa and recognize the colossal economic loss due to criminal syndicates that are illegally exploiting our natural resources and national heritage.

 

To turn things around Africa must take responsibility.

1. Quantify the economic impact of illegal trade of African wildlife. It is estimated that only 10% of exported natural resources from Africa are legal! It’s not just elephants and rhino that are being illegally exported from Africa everyday. Many other mammals, insects, plants, reptiles and birds are also being illegally exported but nobody notices them because we are all looking at elephants and rhinos.  In fact, Africa is losing most of her natural wealth to criminals, and is hemorrhaging her heritage. Wildlife agencies tend to be positioned low on the economic ladder and are minimally resourced.  Moreover, the impact of poaching on nascent eco tourism outfits threatens investments and therefore jobs and revenues.

2: Reform law enforcement: Poaching and ivory dealing is not just a wildlife crime which is treated as a misdemeanor in most countries.  It is an economic crime that is deeply associated with corruption. Handling of wildlife crime cases as economic and organized crimes needs to be prioritized. This will take sentsitization of leaders, and bringing all the relevant agencies together nationally and internationally. And it will require a lot of money.  The criminally organized and militarized nature of elephant poaching and ivory trading in Africa, means that the syndicates are extremely well resourced. African governments must invest in raising these funds to reform the judiciary and educate the relevant agencies.

3: Create effective communication and collaboration between different security wings: It is generally known that the ivory and rhino horn trade is controlled by high level cartels who also deal in drugs, money laundering, human trafficking and gun smuggling.  The revenues generated are believed to be contributing to armed conflicts which threaten communities and significantly impact on tourism.  To deal with wildlife crime will mean collaborating with agencies involved in dealing with corruption arms  dealing, money laundering and other forms of organized crime.

4: Initiate effective monitoring: The impact of elephants poaching in Africa is very poorly documented and must be stepped up. In addition, investigations of the ivory seizures must be conducted, and ivory seizures must be monitored and national stockpiles across Africa and Asia audited to ensure that ivory does not escape into the illegal markets.

I asked Mr Ebayi what he thought of the recently announced Memorandum of understanding between Vietnam and South Africa. Would it make a difference for rhino, and should we pursue a similar arrangement with China on ivory. He wondered aloud what a piece of paper would achieve. “So long as the culture of consuming ivory and rhino horn are not addressed the demand will remain”.  He asked for proof that Vietnam was serious in the form of a government statement banning the use of rhino horn in country, and a significant contribution towards anti-poaching in South Africa. China will need to do the same for ivory if she expects her promises of support to be taken seriously.

 

Swoop Net’s 5,000 Bags of Illegal Charcoal

A Kenya Forests Service (KFS) crackdown on illegal charcoal trade in Kinango, some 70 km southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, nabbed six 3-ton trucks loaded with more than 5,000 bags of charcoal in two days starting 1 December 2009. The operation, involving 15 forest rangers, one commander, two forest officers and the District Forest Officer (DFO) also fined the 6 trucks KShs 50,000 ($650) each in addition to forfeiting their charcoal load.

charcoal raid arrest

To ensure that the truck crews forfeited the charcoal, the DFO had to rush to the Kwale District Coats (under whose jurisdiction Kinango is) to obtain an order allowing the crack team to confiscate the haul. The team then started disposing the charcoal by selling it to local people at KShs 300 ($4) per bag on 3 December. This is the normal way of disposing of impounded charcoal. Buyers were however suspicious thinking that they were being trapped resulting in a slow start to the disposal process. By end of Day 1 only 1/3 of the load had been sold.

According to  Elias Kimaru of the Kwale landscape project of the WWF in the area more than 3,000 bags of charcoal are getting out of the area on daily basis to supply Mombasa and Nairobi. “It is also believed that some charcoal is being exported to Middle East.” Kimaru told WildlifeDirect.

charcoal raid

Most charcoal bags weigh 50 kgs (heavy charcoal from indigenous trees). “Taking the rate of conversion from wood to charcoal to be 10%, we are talking of more than 1500 tonnes of woods is being converted from trees to charcoal daily”, adds Kimaru

According to Kimaru, most of these trees are harvested from private ranches and county council land (unprotected public land).

The result of this wanton destruction of tree cover is accelerated micro-climatic changes in the area with the inevitable outcome of prolonged drought which Kimaru says is turning the area into a desert. The Kinango area for instance has not recieved any significant rainfall for more than four years. “An area like Kilibasi which used to be self sustaining in food production in mid 80’s can not feed itself at the moment.” says Kimaru. “Water pans have dried and most cattle have died. More than 41% of the people depend on relief food on permanent basis while the poverty levels have increased to all time high of 71% (the District is among the poorest in the country).” he adds.

Ending the charcoal menace is hampered mostly by politicians who insist that charcoal burning is a means of livelihood for the local people. But Kimaru disagrees: “If it was a livelihood we would have expected a decrease in poverty levels [not] an increase.”

There is an urgent need for politicians to show willingness to link the high rate of tree destruction with increasing poverty levels in Kwale District. This is of course not likely in the near future given that – as Kimaru suspects – “some power people are benefiting from this illegal activity and they would like the status [quo] to remain.” This is corruption which in most African countries is the key impediment to conservation of forests, wildlife and entire ecosystems. It is also driving Africans deeper and deeper into poverty.

Some organizations are however working towards providing alternative fuel methods to at lease reduce local demand for charcoal and other wasteful wood fuel uses. In my next installation, I will bring you the story of one such organization that is harnessing the power of the volunteer movement to develop more efficient methods of domestic fuel consumption for local people.