Africa workshop brings together key players to pool knowledge and better tackle illegal wildlife trade

EIA campaigners are in Nigeria this week, facilitating a high-level international workshop to bolster efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade by sharing resources and ideas.

The four-day event – Strengthening International Cooperation to Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking in West and Central Africa – is taking place in the capital Abuja.

The workshop is being attended by more than two dozen experts and representatives from government, law enforcement and NGOs hailing from Cameroon, Nigeria and the Republic of the Congo.

Participants at the Abuja workshop on Monday (c) EIA


Welcoming attendees on Monday, Justin Gosling, EIA Senior Project Coordinator (Securing Criminal Justice in West and Central Africa), outlined how East Africa was previously a continental hub for the trafficking of wildlife contraband such as elephant ivory and pangolin scales, but that improved enforcement in that region spurred much of the criminal activity to relocate elsewhere.

“Nigeria is the source of some of the goods we’re talking about,” he said, “but by no means all of them, as the country has become a major hotspot for illegal wildlife products sourced elsewhere in the region before being transported to China and Vietnam.

“There’s been a clear shift, almost a gear change, in response to that, but we can’t afford to relax – we need to keep the momentum going and a lot of that requires better sharing of intelligence between the different countries involved, such as Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and Gabon, among others.”

EIA’s Justin Gosling opens the workshop (c) EIA

He added: “All these crimes are motivated by one thing – greed; they’re not doing this because they hate animals, they’re doing it for the money.”

Sessions during the first day included a presentation by an EIA Senior Intelligence Analyst on the state of wildlife trafficking in West and Central Africa, an open and lively discussion by attendees on their own experiences of tackling illegal wildlife trade – especially the key role played by corruption – and a presentation on illegal trade in the Republic of the Congo by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Other sessions during the week will be given by INTERPOL, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the South African Police Service, the Last Great Ape Organisation and national economic crime and financial intelligence units.

The workshop, supported through grants from the UK’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, aims to conclude with a five-point action plan for participants to take away and enact with the aim of significantly boosting cooperation between the three countries, such as intelligence-sharing and more comprehensively investigating illegal wildlife trade beyond seizures of contraband to identify and disrupt the high-level transnational criminals profiting from this multi-million dollar industry.