Online network seeks to strengthen international collaboration against wildlife trafficking in Central Africa

0


  • The Africa-TWIX (Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange) platform facilitates collaboration to help Central African law enforcement agencies implement wildlife trade laws and treaties.
  • The platform’s secure mailing list and database allow law enforcement officials in five countries to share documents and data that enhance cross-border collaboration.
  • Sharing experiences, data and good practices between police, inspectors, prosecutors, judges and customs officials should help strengthen their respective capacities to better combat wildlife crime.

Five countries that are home to some of the world’s most iconic and endangered animal species have joined forces in a high-tech collaboration to improve wildlife law enforcement.

Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic formed the Africa Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange (Africa-TWIX) in response to wildlife traffickers’ use of new technologies for networking and exchanging information. The program aims to help wildlife trade enforcement agencies benefit from the experience of their colleagues in neighboring countries.

A forest elephant wades through a swampy area in Gabon. More than two-thirds of forest elephants have been killed for their ivory, which is prized by traffickers. Photo credit: Rhett A. Butler

The approach, modeled on a similar European Union program, EU-TWIX, consists of a mailing list and database, both secure, to centralize and categorize information related to wildlife offenses and seizures.

The mailing list, currently sent to nearly 115 officials (out of 131 designated individuals) involved in wildlife and forestry law enforcement in the five countries, aims to empower Africa’s national law enforcement authorities central to communicate and collaborate on wildlife crime investigations.

Participating countries select staff to join the mailing list. Users include officials from the national police, customs, forestry, justice, border forces and environmental inspectorates and prosecutors from these countries, as well as representatives of Interpol and several other organizations. international. Only designated agents from the five countries can access these tools through the Africa-TWIX website.

“Africa-TWIX was developed with the support of COMIFAC [Central African Forests Commission] countries, which are already members or eligible to join, ”said Richard Thomas, global communications coordinator for the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC International. “There is also an advisory body [that] can be consulted in the event of a third party membership request.

Gorillas are trafficked for their body parts and babies, which are sold to private collectors and zoos. This mother and her two young live peacefully in a national park. Photo credit: Sue Palminteri

Once registered, mailing list users can share and receive information, such as details of wildlife trafficking seizures, countries involved along shipping routes, and strategies used by traffickers, as well as publicly available documents related to illegal wildlife trade. Participants expect this cross-border source of information to save agents time and effort in keeping abreast of the latest business developments and news in the region.

In over 800 messages exchanged to date, users have shared non-sensitive information about seizures made by their respective agencies as well as major wildlife-related criminal events occurring in their countries, such as the burning of ivory seized in Cameroon. They also share experiences, good practices, training material and species identification guides. According to TRAFFIC, which operates the platform on behalf of participating countries, information shared on the mailing list has initiated or supported at least five investigations.

The Republic of Congo's forest, like this one along a newly constructed highway, is home to large numbers of animals threatened by trafficking and habitat loss.
The Republic of Congo’s forest, like this one along a newly constructed highway, is home to large numbers of animals threatened by trafficking and habitat loss. Photo credit: Bobulix via flickr / CC 2.0

Central African governments have historically not shared survey data. “There’s a whole host of reasons why information isn’t shared – for example, people don’t necessarily see the benefits that could come from it, or there’s an understandable sense of superiority if you’re the one in the know. current, ”Thomas said. “Overcoming such attitudes is obviously essential to maximize the effectiveness of such a tool. “

Membership is growing steadily, reflecting growing interest in the system: from 57 officials in four countries at the start, to 113 out of five now, Thomas said.

Participating institutions expect the online seizure database, available in English and French, to become a centralized source of information on seizures and detected infractions in African countries. It also contains sets of other resources to help users enforce trade laws, including training materials, information on wildlife legislation, and a pair of laboratory and rescue center directories for seized specimens. .

A white-bellied pangolin, one of the eight pangolin species.  Also called scaly anteaters, pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world.  Their scales, which are sold for supposed healing properties in Asian medicine, are actually made up of keratin, the protein that also makes up hair, nails, hooves, horns, and claws.  The scales have no known medicinal value.
A white-bellied pangolin, one of the eight pangolin species. Also called scaly anteaters, pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. Their scales, which are sold for supposed healing properties in Asian medicine, are actually made up of keratin, the protein that also makes up hair, nails, hooves, horns, and claws. The scales have no known medicinal value. Photo credit: Justin Miller, CC 4.0

Participating countries have traditionally not recorded seizure data, which TRAFFIC and others hope to modify. The database contains more than 220 entry records. These exclude sensitive information, such as the names of offenders or investigators or other identifying information. The data is intended to enable countries to conduct analyzes of the general extent and locations of wildlife trafficking in the region, assess future crime risks and monitor enforcement efforts. the law over time.

The information in the database is intended to support the application, so the country providing the information must approve any publication on any analysis of the data.

A sample page from the AFRICA-TWIX website illustrating the multiple sections that have been created for the provision of tools, identification of seized specimens and training material.
Sample page from AFRICA-TWIX website illustrating pages containing law enforcement tools, seized specimen identification guides and training materials. Image credit: Afrique-TWIX

TRAFFIC has partnered with COMIFAC to develop the platform, which law enforcement agencies in participating countries have formally endorsed. The World Customs Organization (WCO) has agreed to share CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) data with the Africa-TWIX network.

Africa-TWIX’s success in the field has yet to be established, but TRAFFIC hopes to see results and expand the approach. “There is interest elsewhere in Africa, with countries in the Southern African Development Community [SADC] looking to develop a TWIX, ”said Thomas. “We could hope to see regional or continental TWIXs all over the world – maybe even a dedicated system to promote intercontinental routes: it’s about fostering and promoting collaboration in law enforcement. “

FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the editor of this article. If you want to post a public comment, you can do so at the bottom of the page.


Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.