LATF spearheads fighting wildlife crime through enhanced cross-border law enforcement collaboration between Kenya and Tanzania

Representatives from Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) with wildlife law enforcement officers from two Lusaka Agreement member states (Kenya and Tanzania) met from 13th to 15th August 2015 in Karatu, Tanzania at their 26th cross-border wildlife security meeting. The meeting was attended by 40 wildlife officers from Tanzania Wildlife Division, Kenya Wildlife Service, Tanzania National Parks and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority.

The officers reviewed status of cross border affairs and shared intelligence pertaining to poaching and trafficking of wildlife and forest products across the border, proliferation of small arms as well as modus operandi of criminal syndicates operating in both countries. They noted the worrying trend of elephant and rhino poaching in the two countries especially in the shared ecosystems of Tsavo/Mkomazi, Serengeti/Mara and Amboseli/Kilimanjaro. Delegates from the four wildlife agencies reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cooperation as obligated under the provisions of the Lusaka Agreement, the regional law enforcement network aimed at combating illegal exploitation and trafficking in wildlife specimens. The meeting adopted seven resolutions/recommendations including enhanced information gathering and exchange, stepping up joint law enforcement measures, sustaining wildlife corridor linking the shared ecosystems and reviving Wildlife Director’s Forum to give policy guidance on other salient issues beyond the current cross-border wildlife security forum.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Faustine Masalu the Assistant Director in charge of Law Enforcement at Tanzania Wildlife Division highlighted on the alarming rate at which iconic wildlife populations are declining in the two countries hence adversely affecting the rich biodiversity resources of Kenya and Tanzania. He noted that this situation is being compounded by: climate change, land use change, population growth and resource overexploitation, whose fight requires a collaborative approach to be discussed effectively. He urged members of the cross-border forum to critically examine each country’s situation, identify weakness and propose way forward focusing on cross-cutting wildlife issues that need to be addressed holistically.

Mr. Abdi Doti, Head of Intelligence in Kenya Wildlife Service hailed the close working collaboration and emphasized on the need for active participation, involvement and commitment by both parties in the initiative. He underscored the need for actionable resolutions to the common challenges.

During the meeting, Mr. Rwegasira who represented the Director of LATF, highlighted on the increased poaching incidents and associated trafficking in wildlife specimens witnessed in the recent past in the region. He noted the most worrying trends of elephant ivory and rhino horn trafficking aggravated by operations of sophisticated and organized criminal syndicates within the two countries. He lauded the cooperation that exists between the two countries and emphasized on the need for enhanced collaboration to further streamline law enforcement actions. He noted that as wildlife criminals move across national borders, it is increasingly becoming necessary for wildlife law enforcement officers to stay a step ahead of them through effective networking and information sharing. The cross-border wildlife security initiative is vital in strengthening co-operation and collaboration which is needed to tackle the spiraling trans-boundary wildlife crime, he said.

Mr. Rwegasira congratulated wildlife officers from the two countries for not only fighting wildlife crime but also assisting sister government agencies to fight other trans-national crimes like smuggling of goods, vehicle theft, and movement of illegal small arms through the trans-boundary ecosystems. He appreciated efforts by Mkomazi and Tsavo West personnel which led to the recovery of a firearm and ammunitions used for elephant and rhino poaching in 2014 and a stolen motor vehicle in 2015. LATF coordinates countries’ efforts, build capacity and skills as well as foster cooperation among law enforcement agencies mandated to fight against illicit trade in wild fauna and flora within Africa. All member countries of Lusaka Agreement are required to take appropriate measures to enforce the provisions of the Agreement to reduce and ultimately eliminate illegal trade in wild fauna and flora.

 Participants of the 26th Kenya-Tanzania cross border wildlife security meeting in a group photo

Participants of the 26th Kenya-Tanzania cross border wildlife security meeting in a group photo