Law enforcement team up to bust wildlife trafficking rings

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Eleven agencies in Sabah hosted by the Sabah Wildlife Department are undergoing specialist training.

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia — Anti-Trafficking Experts organized specialized training in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia June 20-24. The course, which was officially launched by Sabah Wildlife Department Director Augustine Tuuga, is designed to help local law enforcement find and dismantle criminal networks that target the state’s rich biodiversity. of Sabah and attempt to use Sabah as part of their global and illicit wildlife sourcing. Chains.

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Typically, the multi-billion dollar illicit trade in wild animals and their products begins in forest and marine habitats and spreads to cities and ports, where organized crime groups smuggle rare and endangered animals across borders to established markets. In the case of Sabah, there is growing evidence that these supply chains have passed through the state, sometimes with links to Africa and other Asian countries.

For example, a joint law enforcement operation in 2019, undertaken by Sabah authorities and wildlife police, targeted an illegal wildlife factory outside Kota Kinabalu and resulted in a seizure. history of 30 metric tons of pangolins – the most trafficked mammal in the world. Authorities recently revealed that the animals (most of which had already been killed and their lucrative body parts removed) came from local and foreign sources and were being prepared for shipment to the Asian region.

The CTO program (Counter-Transnational Organized Crime) was brought to Sabah and adapted to local authorities to help them identify, target and dismantle the criminal syndicates behind the illegal trade.

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Delivered by law enforcement, intelligence and conservation specialists, CTOC was designed by Freeland, an anti-trafficking organization. CTOC includes building skills in intelligence gathering, assessment, targeting and operational planning. In addition to training, the CTOC convenes agencies to form wildlife trafficking task forces.

The CTOC event was co-organized by WWF-Malaysia in local partnership with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD). Together, WWF-Malaysia and SWD conducted a needs assessment for the course and helped recruit 11 Sabah-based agencies to participate.

Anticipating increased wildlife bans, IFAW and WWF are hosting follow-up training in July for frontline officers on handling and caring for confiscated wildlife. This course will also introduce new genetic and forensic traceability tools.

Sabah is considered a global biodiversity hotspot, with one of the world’s oldest rainforests home to orangutans, clouded leopards, proboscis monkeys, elephants and many other species. Oil palm plantations have reduced Sabah’s forest cover and made its wildlife more vulnerable to subsistence and commercial hunting.

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Freeland, WWF and IFAW are partners in a project called “TRIPOD” (Targeting Regional Investigations for Policing Opportunities & Development), which is sponsored by the US Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. TRIPOD aims to reduce wildlife trafficking in the Southeast Asian sub-region of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Other TRIPOD trainings and networking events will take place in Indonesia and the Philippines in the coming months. TRIPOD is also creating a comprehensive “toolkit” for frontline officers to support their anti-trafficking efforts.

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