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Interpol’s Environmental Crime Team needs political goodwill

By Editorial | October 10th 2014

NAIROBI: The International Police (Interpol) this week announced it had formed a team to help fight the poaching menace that has seen elephant and rhino populations go down significantly over the last few years in the country.

Dubbed the Environmental Crime team, it is an extension of Interpol’s security unit that has its headquarters in France.

The new team will be based in Nairobi, where it will be charged with gathering information on the activities of poachers and smugglers. Acting in collaboration with the law enforcers within the East African region, the Environmental Crime Team will apply itself more to combating wildlife crime.

On its own, without honest support guided by genuine concerns for the preservation of the elephants and the rhinos from the regional governments, this body will not be able to achieve much.

Those conversant with the poaching menace will have to agree political goodwill is needed more than anything else.

Complementing these noble efforts by Interpol, conservationists have turned to technology in an effort to track the movements of elephants.

Noting that elephants are not necessarily under threat from poachers, but communities living next to animal sanctuaries as well, Kenya and Tanzania have formed a team to set up a joint database that will assist both governments with the tracking of animals across their common border in an effort to control instances of human-wildlife conflict when the latter strays out to look for food and water.

The tracking will include checks on poachers. Despite measures put in place to curb poaching, it continues to thrive and the population of rhinos, buffaloes and elephants is diminishing at an alarming rate.

This raises the question of the Government’s commitment to fight poaching. Recently, though, the Government gave assurance that the war against poaching was being won.

Ordinary Kenyans do not have the wherewithal and requisite expertise to hunt in national parks, smuggle the tusks out of those parks and have the connections and resources to get them through guarded airports and marine ports to destinations abroad.

That points to people of means with access to diplomatic immunity and political connections.

Put it another way, poaching is simplified by the setting up of syndicates that incorporate politicians, unscrupulous underpaid rangers and the security agents, something that explains the ease with which poachers evade the law.

The arrest of poachers attests to this.

The biggest market for ivory is China. Interpol’s environmental crime team should not just concentrate its efforts in East Africa but should also monitor the Chinese market and prevail upon the Chinese government to assist in combating the vice.

The international ban on ivory must be observed by all countries.

We can only hope that Interpol’s initiative will bear fruit in the preservation of endangered animal species.

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