AWF Convenes Canine Handlers for First Responder Training


On August 12, 2019, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) kick-started a four-day training on first responders to a wildlife crime scene and testing in court at the AWF headquarters in Nairobi.The training, themed “Strengthening Law Enforcement Capacity Through Proper Investigative Techniques and Testifying in Court,” is in a bid to not only equip the first responders with the most efficient evidentiary and procedural considerations but to also boost the competence and confidence of the latter when testifying in court.

“The most important aspect of this training is that the nature of the crimes most handlers are dealing with are committed across multiple borders, hence the need to train the prosecutors, the rangers, and the handlers on how to collaborate to achieve successful convictions,” said Dr. Philip Muruthi, AWF Vice President of Species Conservation and Science during his opening remarks.

The participants are detection dog handlers hailing from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, and Malawi who are eager to learn from each other and the facilitators on the best practices that they can take back home to their countries.

“This training has come at an opportune time, seeing as we have been using the canines for the past few years at KWS and we are advancing to where we can link the canine to evidence, and finally to conviction. This will lead to a higher deterrence effect of the new act as we collectively come up with strategies that can help us address transnational African crime rather than every country training individually," Joseph Sarara, Head of Investigation at KWS emphasized.

One of the participants, Kabarangira Man from Uganda, said, “I am looking forward to the knowledge that will be imparted, and I am glad that these agencies have seen the need to build our capacity as professionals on the ground. I believe the training will give us real-time solutions for an ever-changing world.”

The training is funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and AWF, with the enhancing of enforcement agencies to stop the trafficking of wildlife within and without the continent being the key expected outcome.

Javier Montano, the Regional Coordinator of UNODC, added, “This training is not only important in fostering interagency corporation but also in creating synergies between institutions that are delivering good cooperation in the capacity-building initiative. With the partnership we have with AWF in capacity-building for prosecutors and investigators to be part of this partnership, we were seeing the value added from our side to the work that they are doing and vice versa."

The facilitators have compiled a comprehensive curriculum focused on previously identified challenges faced by first responders in the region and will entail practical exercises based on two modules: "Introduction to Basic Investigation Techniques – First Responder to Wildlife Scenes of Crime" and "Testifying in Court."

Didi Wamukoya, AWF Senior Manager, Wildlife Law Enforcement reiterated, "The key outcome of the training is enhanced enforcement to stop the trafficking of wildlife products by ensuring proper crime scene management practices and competently testifying in court. Enhanced enforcement will ensure effective investigation, prosecutions, and sentences that are deterrent enough to discourage wildlife traffickers. The training also aims to bring rangers from several countries in Africa together to ensure collaboration and support in combating wildlife trafficking.”