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Interpol unveils new initiative to fight wildlife crimes

Illegal trade of wildlife products is estimated to be worth Sh2trillion per year. PHOTO | FILE
Illegal trade of wildlife products is estimated to be worth Sh2 trillion per year. PHOTO | FILE 

International police body (Interpol) has unveiled a new initiative that seeks to combat cartels behind the menace of elephant and rhino poaching in Africa.

The project that targets all countries prone to poaching in Africa seeks to identify and dismantle organised crime networks between Africa and Asia, which are responsible for promoting illegal wildlife trade.

Interpol’s Secretary General Jurgen Stock said the new initiative is aimed at combating environmental crime on a global scale through an inter-nation approach that will boost individual countries’ anti-poaching fight.

“It will also focus on other criminal activities linked to environmental crimes, corruption, money laundering and firearms trafficking,” he said.

The project, which is supported by the United States Agency for International Development and the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime, will mainly focus on exposing ivory and rhino horn buyers operating within Kenya and other African countries.

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It comes hardly months after the release of a joint poaching report by Interpol and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), which found that environmental crimes were now worth up to Sh25.8 trillion up from Sh21.3 trillion a few years ago.

Poaching became a global concern around 2010 when the massacre of elephants and rhinos reached alarming levels – arousing conservationists and wildlife activists’ interest in seeking a decisive action to end the menace.

The International Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species estimates that the illegal wildlife trade is worth Sh2trillion per year, making it the fourth biggest illicit activity after guns, drugs and human trafficking.

"Protecting the world's wildlife heritage is our collective responsibility as global citizens and as international law enforcement," Stock said.

The project will also tackle large-scale illegal fishing, whose networks have developed over the past 10 years, Interpol said.

"Illegal fishing is also often linked to human trafficking with crews subjected to labour and human rights abuses, fraud in regulatory systems and corruption, damaging legitimate businesses and economies," the international body added.

China is the main source of global demand for ivory and in March 2016 the government announced a ban on new ivory imports.

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