In March 2013, a man was arrested trying to leave Kenya with two pieces of worked ivory intended for the international black market. He pled guilty to wildlife trafficking. And his punishment? He was fined just US$300.
Contrast this to last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where magistrates prosecuted and convicted five people of wildlife trafficking. They were given 10-year sentences and a fine of US$12,500. The magistrates who made this ruling had been trained in handling wildlife crime cases by African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
The Trafficking Problem
Wildlife trafficking is organized by huge syndicates – but each stage is dependent on individuals choosing to take the risk. By making the risk outweigh the reward – improving detection and securing harsher sentences, AWF hopes to deter people from perpetrating these crimes.
AWF has been working to reduce wildlife poaching and trafficking through judicial and prosecutorial interventions. This project aims to train and build the capacity of wildlife crime investigators, prosecutors, and judicial officers. It will also enhance the collaboration between law enforcement agencies to increase their success.
These efforts include:
- Advocating for stronger wildlife laws
- Training those fighting wildlife crime
- Establishing standard operating procedures
- Forming collaborative networks between agencies
- Supporting prosecutors on the job
- Creating regional wildlife prosecutor coalitions
The goal is to see stronger, more deterrent wildlife legislation, as well as enhanced prosecution and adjudication of wildlife crimes.
“As police officers, we have found it difficult to deal with cases related to wildlife crime because of ignorance of the relevant regulations. The workshops have changed all that, making us more capable and effective.”Police officer in the DRC.
Another way to combat trafficking is to find the trafficked items before they leave the country. AWF is working to train and deploy dogs to detect ivory, rhino horn, and other wildlife products being smuggled across the border. By increasing the likelihood of detection, these dogs help to deter would-be-traffickers.
Much of the trafficking is targeting elephant ivory. The ivory trade is highly illegal, but sadly, especially in Asia, carved ivory pieces are still in high demand. But for elephants, ivory isn’t a luxury. It is part of them.
Elephants travel in family groups, led by an older matriarch. They have close family bonds, caring for injured elephants and helping to look after babies. Elephants are slower to reproduce than most animals, carrying calves for 22 months before birth. With the current rate of poaching deaths, elephant populations are decreasing in size every year. If poaching continues at the current rate, these magnificent creatures could vanish in our lifetimes.
In 2021, canine detection units active across 5 countries recovered 632 kilos of ivory – equivalent to the ivory of more than 10 elephants.
African Wildlife Foundation
Headquartered in Kenya, AWF has 60 years of experience working to ensure wildlife and wild lands thrive in a modern Africa. As one of the oldest and largest conservation organizations focused solely on the continent of Africa, AWF is the primary advocate for the protection of African wildlife and wild lands.
AWF works across the continent, implementing programs that focus on safeguarding areas of high conservation value. They lead and collaborate on projects that protect land, conserve wildlife, improve the lives of local people, and leverage conservation enterprises. Importantly, they aim to create economic growth that is not at the expense of Africa’s natural heritage. With the future in mind, they promote the next generation of African conservation leaders.
How can we help?
We are proud to support African Wildlife Foundation this month, as part of our commitment to giving 1% for endangered species. Our donation will support their efforts to protect wildlife and wildlands in Africa. It will fund projects such as their work to protect elephants and improve law enforcement through their wildlife judicial and prosecutorial training programs and their Canines for Conservation programs, strengthening detection and prosecution of wildlife crimes.
Thank you for your business – you have helped to give elephants more time.