The Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), in collaboration with the Association of South East Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SA-WEN), European Union Police (EUROPOL) as well as China, USA and South Africa successfully coordinated Operation COBRA III. Undertaken from 4 to 27 May 2015 across 62 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and America, Operation Cobra III targeted transnational wildlife and forest crime mainly in elephants, rhinos, pangolins, great apes, big cats, birds, fish, reptiles, timber and other forest products. Participating agencies in Operation Cobra III included ASEAN-WEN, LATF, SA-WEN, INTERPOL, WCO, RILO AP, RILO ESA, UNODC, CITES, India Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), China National Interagency CITES Enforcement Coordination Group (NICECG), ASEAN Police (ASEANPOL), EUROPOL and US Fish Wildlife Service (USFWS). INTERPOL financially supported the hosting of the International Coordinating Team (ICT) which comprised officers drawn from wildlife, Customs, Police, Forestry and other law enforcement agencies as well as inter-governmental agencies in Bangkok, Thailand.
COBRA III registered great successes including 300 arrests of suspects (several of those arrested were kingpins) and over 600 seizures of assorted wildlife contraband, with more tip-offs leading to further criminal exposure. This has been achieved as a result of effective collaboration, intelligence and information sharing among COBRA III participants which has enhanced the profile of the COBRA Initiative.
In Africa, outstanding seizures included 1.3 tons of elephant ivory and 65 rhino horns in Mozambique, 8300 units and 1 ton of abalone seized in South Africa, 608 kg of elephant ivory seized in Uganda and 14 as well as four 4 rhino horns seized in Namibia and Kenya respectively. The Operation also recorded huge hauls of contraband ivory originating from Africa, which included seizure of 4.3 tons (one of the largest elephant ivory hauls) in Thailand on transit from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Lao PDR; followed by another seizure of 3.1 tons of ivory from Kenya a week later. Another large seizure of contraband ivory (3.7 tons) originating from Kenya was seized in Singapore while on transit to Vietnam.
(27th April 2015)
Commenting on the commendable results recorded by COBRA III, Mr. Bonaventure Ebayi Director of Lusaka Agreement Task Force, stated that he was delighted by the results of Operation COBRA III and said COBRA initiative should be a model, to be developed further with increased support from governments and international community. He noted the alarming level and frequency at which illegal wildlife trade is taking place within and across the regions aggravated by the many forces at play including incentives, corruption and fraud by criminals and officials across the entire illicit trade chain. He reiterated that the Lusaka Agreement Task Force is confident with the COBRA initiative, and that with sufficient funding the global community will build a strong platform for cooperative enforcement operations especially linking Africa and Asia to win the war against illegal wildlife trade.
LATF is currently coordinating Post-COBRA III activities to include the Regional Review and Training Workshop tentatively scheduled for August 2015. The workshop will bring together COBRA III ICT members and National coordinators of all participating countries in Africa to evaluate the operation’s outcomes and exchange information as well as plan follow-up enforcement intervention. An enforcement training component will also be delivered to the benefit of the participants. Participating countries in Africa will include Lusaka Agreement member states (Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia) and other African states (Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and South Sudan).
LATF wishes to commend all the participating countries, partnering agencies and governments as well as development partners for their dedication and continued support to LATF for effective interventions in the war against wildlife crime in Africa and globally.