In 2017 and early 2018, African Wildlife Foundation’s canine units made over 100 busts, uncovering raw and worked ivory, pangolin scales and skins, lion bones, sable antelope horns, rhino horns, hippo teeth, and more. In August 2017 our dogs alerted their handlers to a huge stash — 50 pounds of rhino horn in a smuggler’s bag at the Entebbe International Airport. The Vietnamese smuggler was arrested, prosecuted and eventually fined and deported from Uganda.
Botswana’s Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act (or the Wildlife Act) enforces the protection of wild species and natural habitats, with a particular focus on keystone species slaughtered for the illegal trade in wildlife products. Offenses against rhinos attract both the highest fine — BWP 100,000 ($ 10,000) — as well as the longest prison term of 15 years. Other offenses involving the illegal killing of wildlife, hunting without permits, trade in wildlife and wildlife products, and dealing in wildlife trophies carry high prison terms ranging from five to 10 years.
Botswana is indeed one of the success stories in wildlife conservation on the continent. It has the largest population of elephants in Africa with about 200,000 individuals. To protect this large herd, along with other iconic wildlife species, the government has put in place strong measures to protect wildlife against criminal threats such as poaching and trafficking. As African Wildlife Foundation’s Wildlife Law Enforcement team prepares for the Wildlife Judicial and Prosecutorial Assistance Training in Botswana from June 5-7, 2018, we recognize the strides that the southern African country has made to protect its wildlife. For example, the Botswana Defence Forces are committed to protecting wildlife and fighting poaching in protected areas.
Monday, June 7, 2010 stands out clearly in my memory. I had just been appointed as a public prosecutor for wildlife crimes, and my first mission was to visit various courts and introduce myself in my new role. I started at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, where the Chief Magistrate kindly suggested that I sit in her courtroom for the morning session to acquaint myself — a relief, given that I had no experience in prosecution.
As more countries recognize wildlife poaching and trafficking as serious crimes run by organized syndicates, they turn to the legal system to protect wildlife. Not only is legislation being strengthened across eastern Africa, but the capacity of law enforcement officers, investigators, and prosecutors is also strategically enhanced.