LUSAKA AGREEMENT TASK FORCE (LATF) fostering regional and inter-regional cooperation, state and interagency collaboration in fighting transnational organized wildlife crime Celebrating World Wildlife Day – 3rd March 2016

The Nairobi-based inter-governmental wildlife enforcement agency – Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), is celebrating the World Wildlife Day alongside the African Environment Day and Wangari Mathai Day pursuant to its steadfast enforcement mission in safeguarding our much-treasured wildlife resources against illegal exploitation and trafficking, crimes that are detrimental to our national economies and human livelihoods.

Sophistication in wildlife/forest crime in Africa and other continents has made it more challenging for individual countries, regions and organizations to overcome the vice. It is only when countries and relevant organizations collaborate and synchronize their law enforcement efforts to create synergy in addressing every level of the crime chain can the global community make the venture difficult and costly.

African states and their partnering communities require strengthening of their existing wildlife conservation enforcement mechanisms at national, sub-regional and regional levels. Sub-regional economic blocks (SADC, EAC, ECOWAS, CAEC), Wildlife Conservation Protocols, Regional environmental conventions and Multilateral Agreements such as African Convention on Nature and Natural Resources, and the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora, constitute strong platforms for eradicating the crime and ensuring effective conservation of the environmental resources.

While appreciating their commitment and invaluable contributions, we call upon the international community mainly represented in this arena by ICCWC partners and the UN entities such as UNEP, UNDP and FAO, African Union Commission, European Commission, AMCEN and all biodiversity-related conventions and MEAs to maintain their momentum in enhancing investment in the fight against wildlife crime.

Coordination and collaboration of efforts remain key success ingredients and has been globally recognized by all key players. Competing rather than complementing one another creates opportunities for wildlife criminals to out-smart wildlife law enforcement agencies. It is high time we overcame such weaknesses and freely share available resources, work together in achieving our common wildlife conservation goals through effective crime prevention, law enforcement, governance and compliance.

The Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), established under the Lusaka Final Act1994 with the mandate to coordinate wildlife law enforcement efforts across countries in Africa, is a results- oriented model that needs to be strengthened further for the benefit and integrity of African wild flora and fauna. LATF maintains vibrant working relationships with among others UNEP, UNODC, AMCEN, GRASP, ASEAN-WEN, China-NICEG, all Wildlife & Forestry Authorities, African Elephant Fund Steering Committee, Government of Canada and USAID/TRAFFIC as it implements MoUs with CITES, INTERPOL, WCO, COMIFAC, IFAW and RECSA.

LATF has successfully established effective cross-border bilateral and multilateral working mechanisms among countries through regular wildlife security meetings and Directors’ forums that create platforms for fostering information sharing, exchange of experiences/best practices, multi-agency criminal investigations, simultaneous border patrols/enforcement operations, development and implementation of specific strategies/measures to address emerging challenges in combating wildlife crime and associated threats. Recently LATF successfully concluded the Eastern Africa Wildlife Directors’ Meeting (Nairobi 11-12 February 2016) aimed at enhancing cooperation in combating wildlife crime in the sub-region, and the Kenya/Uganda cross-border wildlife security meeting focused on ensuring effective security of the Mount Elgon Transboundary Ecosystem (Kitale 22-23 February 2016).

Similarly LATF carried out a Train-the-Trainers’ course for enforcement personnel for the Sangha Trinational Ecosystem involving Cameroun, Congo (Brazzaville) and Central Africa Republic (Ouesso-Kabo 25-31st January 2016), for purposes of buttressing operational capacity of the enforcement personnel in combating wildlife crime within Central Africa.

In 2016, LATF will continue collaborating with Project Wisdom, being undertaken under the auspices of INTERPOL Regional Bureau based in Nairobi, in an effort to dismantle sophisticated wildlife criminal networks involving African and Asian elephant ivory and rhino horn traffickers operating across borders in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and DRC.

LATF embraces support from Freeland Foundation through the ongoing on-the-job training program involving trans-national investigations into ivory, rhino horn and sandalwood seizures among others and will continue supporting the initiative.

Through the common crime prevention and enforcement platform code named ‘’ Operation COBRA’’ LATF has bridged enforcement efforts among countries of origin, transit and destination of wildlife contraband mainly originating from the Africa in its strive to minimize and eradicate trafficking in wildlife and forestry products. It successfully concluded Operation Cobra I in 2013 which it coordinated with ASEAN-WEN and Cobra II and III with ASEAN-WEN and other international networks in EU and the US with the support of ICCWC partners in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Excellent results have been realized from these operations in terms of seizures and arrests, intelligence collection and sharing, disruption of criminal networks, exchange of best practices, building mutual trust among agencies and sharing of lessons learned from various interventions. The COBRA initiative has gained international momentum and is today recognized as an effective wildlife enforcement mechanism globally, to be maintained and bolstered for future interventions.

Effective implementation of the Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS) (currently being implemented by LATF and some countries in Africa) as a central wildlife crime information sharing platform will go a long way in enhancing knowledge on trends, volumes, magnitude, modus operandi, species and criminals involved as well as crime hot-spots for informed policy and decision making.

LATF wishes Africa and the global community enjoyable celebrations during the 2016 World Wildlife Day, the African Environment Day and Wangari Mathai Day as we assure you all of our unreserved commitment towards safeguarding our wildlife and forest resources against illegal exploitation and trafficking.

We commend all Lusaka Agreement member states for their efforts, continued guidance and support to LATF. To our partners and funders, we greatly appreciate and commend you for your cooperation and invaluable support without which we could not be celebrating our 17- years of operation today.

“Together” we will win the fight against wildlife crime.

Bonaventure Ebayi, Director Lusaka Agreement Task Force – Nairobi, Kenya

Email: administrator@lusakaagreement.org;        Web: www.lusakaagreement.org