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International fund inks deal to combat wildlife crime in Africa

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) on Tuesday inked a MoU on bilateral cooperation in combating wildlife crime in Africa.

IFAW Regional Director James Isiche said after signing the deal in Nairobi that the deal will facilitate cooperative wildlife law enforcement operations and relevant capacity building programs between the two organizations to benefit Lusaka Agreement member states and the entire African continent.

He said wildlife crime is of international concern hence the need to develop strong partnerships not only amongst countries but international agencies as well, in tackling the vice.

The Lusaka Agreement has been ratified by seven African countries including Kenya, Congo Brazzaville, Lesotho, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia while Ethiopia, Swaziland and South Africa are signatories of the inter-governmental law enforcement organization that aims to coordinate regional efforts to reduce illegal trade in wild fauna and flora. 

LAFT is also working with the member states to strengthen existing laws as well as enforcement on illegal trade of wildlife.

In addition to illegal wildlife trade, intensive poaching and over exploitation of the resources, habitat loss and human- wildlife conflict are seen as other greatest problems facing wildlife populations in Africa.

To mitigate these, Isiche said IFAW undertakes various interventions including training law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention and partnering with conservationists and communities to conserve environments, monitoring elephant migratory routes and securing more space for elephants.

LATF Director Bonaventure Ebayi said Africa is witnessing increased sophistication in transnational illegal wildlife trade, noting that the criminal networks have devised means to elude law enforcement by often changing their modus operandi.

He said LATF is committed to the fight and will remain focused in supporting national regional and global enforcement efforts and developing strategic partnerships in fulfilling its regional mandate.

Wildlife crime and related illegal trade is now globally ranked as one of the most serious international crimes.

Recent reports from wildlife conservationists indicated that proceeds of wildlife crime are also used to finance other international crimes including proliferation of illegal firearms, human trafficking and terrorism cartels of which no country or agency can single-handedly manage.

For the last 15 years, IFAW and LATF have collaborated in combating wildlife crime and the signing of the agreement fulfills a decision of the 10th Governing Council of the Parties to the Lusaka Agreement sitting in November 2011 in Tanzania, with a view of building capacities of LATF and Parties to the Lusaka Agreement and in the process strengthen the IFAW/LATF partnership.

According to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS),  Kenya looks forward to many other African range states  in sending out a fiery message that ivory smuggling and killing of elephants have no place in the world.

Rampant poaching of rhinos and elephants forced the East African nation to revise its laws to give stiffer penalties for poachers and other wildlife offenders, saying that the legal regime has to discourage people from dealing with species that are threatened with extinction.

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 merchandise.  This demand mainly emanates from Asia which has pushed the price of a 1 kg of ivory from 100 dollars in the 1970s to over 1500 dollars currently in the black market.

The elephant is recognized as a flagship species representing the magnificent diverse wildlife resources in the continent. 

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