The African wildlife has for many years been relied upon as a major source of revenue, attracting millions of tourists from all over the world every year. It has been a true African heritage that makes the continent stand out from the rest.
Unfortunately, this heritage is quickly diminishing thanks to ruthless poachers who continue to wage war against rare wild animals and indigenous trees for money. Scientists and conservationists have warned that if the situation is not arrested soon enough, it will lead to complete extinction of some of these precious wild animals and plants.
It is for this reason that environmentalists have teamed up with African governments and security apparatus within the content and outside to clamp down on illegal poachers. This operation has led to the arrest of two of Africa’s most wanted poachers, Chancy and Patrick Kaunda.
Combined Efforts against Poachers
The two Malawian brothers, who have been on Interpol’s radar for many years, were arrested on Wednesday last week in Malawi for allegedly trying to smuggle 781 elephant tusks from Tanzania to Malawi in 2013. The illegal tusks, which had been concealed in bags of cement, are estimated to be worth $5.8 million.
The manhunt, which was initiated by Tanzanian authorities, involved cooperation between East African police chiefs and a team deployed by Interpol. It was a two-day operation that targeted transnational crimes including human, drugs and arms trafficking, terrorism, people smuggling, counterfeit goods and environmental crimes.
In a statement issued shortly after the arrest, Interpol’s Project Wisdom coordinator, Henri Fournel, congratulated the teams involved in the crackdown, saying the arrests prove that Tanzania and Malawi are committed to fighting poaching and other organized environmental crimes in East Africa.
“We congratulate our colleagues for apprehending these fugitives, and commend all our member countries in Africa and Asia for their continued dedication in the fight against international ivory trafficking,” Fournel was quoted by IPP Media.
Winning the War on Poaching
While many Africans have welcomed the arrest of the two notorious East African poachers, questions abound as to whether the arrests will have an impact on the war on poaching.
Some security experts argue that although the arrests will help to destabilize the criminal network for the time being, it will take more than a two-day crackdown to completely dismantle the well-established criminal gangs.
They therefore advise African governments to focus more on prevention measures instead of spending essential resources on rectifying damages that have already been done.
Other possible strategies include working with the international community to permanently obliterate the ever-rising demand for wildlife products, especially elephant tusks and rhino horns. This should include the termination of all domestic markets for ivory and tusks, and improved protection of the remaining African elephant and rhino populations.
Above all, African governments must take the lead in the war against poaching by involving African experts and ordinary citizens in all kinds of wildlife conservation initiatives. Numerous public awareness campaigns, especially among the people living near wildlife reserves, are also important.