Law enforcers from Malawi and Zambia gathered in Lusaka this week to participate in a high level training exercise aimed to ensure their success in targeting ivory retailers and thus disrupting the grisly ivory supply chain.
The training was funded by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and conducted by INTERPOL in cooperation with the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
During the five-day course law enforcers were taught key competencies aimed to help them successfully investigate and prosecute illegal ivory trade at the retail and wholesale level.
"We're delighted that this training has turned out 14 highly skilled law enforcers, who now have the specialized, professional standard enforcement skills needed to combat the ivory trade," said Kelvin Alie, Director of Wildlife Trade for IFAW.
"As a result they will be able to plan and coordinate law enforcement operations to identify and target ivory buyers, wholesalers and ivory carving factories in their home countries – Malawi and Zambia. If you disrupt these operations at this level, it contributes significantly to disrupting the illegal ivory trade more broadly."
As one of the world's most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting. Up to 35,000 elephants lose their lives to poaching for their ivory each year.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as "white gold." Availability of legal ivory in China purchased from the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants to meet market needs.
As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol's Environmental Security Sub-Directorate with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol's largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.
The IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people. The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW's digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade.