Kenya a beacon in fighting transnational wildlife crime

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Globally the situation of many endangered species is dire but Interpol has found a bright light in Kenya where elephant numbers doubled over the last 30 years thanks to anti-poaching efforts.

According to the 194 member-strong international criminal police organisation about 3 500 African elephants are killed annually; the Asian tiger population has decreased by over 95% in the past 100 years and more than 128 tons of pangolin scales were intercepted in 2019 – a staggering 200% increase from five years previously.

The Lyon, France headquartered organisation points out the scale of the threat against the world’s wildlife, particularly endangered species, must be made known, the “heroic work” of law enforcement officers at the forefront on transnational wildlife crime has to be recognised.

Kenya is one such example.

As a country, we depend on tourism in s bid way and tourism depends on the beauty of our environment,” George Maingi Kinoti, Director of the Criminal Investigations Department of Kenya’s National Police Service.

“Wildlife crime was not initially taken seriously as one a major crime. Now, we realise hospitals, roads, community development and others are proceeds from our wildlife,” he said.

Kenya is of strategic importance in the fight against transnational wildlife crime due to its Mombasa port, which handles up to 5 000 containers daily.

“Cartels, smugglers, criminal networks, all want to sneak in an illicit or illegal shipment, hoping because there are so many containers, we may overlook some and say ‘we can only inspect so much,” Swaleh Faraj, a senior official at the Kenya Revenue Authority, said.

“We have infrastructure to make it less attractive. This would not be a success without the support of Interpol and its global network to share and exchange information.”

Collaboration with Kenyan law enforcement has shown encouraging results. Over the last 30 years, elephant numbers in Kenya doubled. A crackdown on poaching and wildlife trafficking saw an increase in arrests.

Fighting wildlife traffickers is not without risk. In Nairobi National Park, a monument bears the names of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty protecting Kenya’s wildlife.

“Every year, the list grows. We’re always reviewing how we operate so we beat the criminals and get them before they get us,” Celine Mwangangi of the Kenya Wildlife Service said.