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INTERPOL launches African environmental crime unit

PEat forest clearing in Indonesia
White rhino in South Africa. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

To help fight illegal poaching and trafficking, INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organization, has launched an environmental crimes unit in Africa.

In a statement released Tuesday, INTERPOL said the new team is based in Nairobi and will focus on wildlife crime, including the elephant ivory and rhino horn trades.

“This initiative will enable INTERPOL, through its Project Wisdom, to provide continuous investigative and analytical support to East African member countries concerning significant transnational wildlife trafficking cases, and to assist with planning operations targeting the organized criminal networks behind these crimes,” said David Higgins, Head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security unit.

Rhino horns burning during a public anti-poaching demonstration held last month at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of CITES Secretariat.
Rhino horn’s burning. Photo courtesy of CITES Secretariat.

Australian High Commissioner Geoff Tooth added that the fight against the illegal wildlife trade “has just been given a significant boost.”

“The new INTERPOL team in Nairobi will mean better intelligence gathering and sharing among the law enforcement community, which is key to shutting down the poachers and smugglers,” Tooth said after Australian High Commission hosted the event where INTERPOL announced the new initiative.

INTERPOL has led a series of high profile raids in Africa over the past two years, including large seizures of contraband ivory, rhino horn, and timber.

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