Officers sharpen anti-smuggling skills

08 October 2019 | Crime

Namibia's air, sea and land ports have been identified as key hubs for the distribution of illegal wildlife products.

Therefore customs and police officers from Windhoek and Walvis Bay were recently trained in the identification of species and the use of luggage and container scanners to detect smuggled wildlife products.

This is according to a statement issued by TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network.

According to the statement a total of 40 customs and excise officials and police officers based at Hosea Kutako International Airport and the port of Walvis Bay were trained.

Topics covered during the week-long training included an overview of legal and illegal wildlife trade, an introduction to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), modes of transport and concealment of wildlife specimens.

It also focused on the detection of wildlife specimens in luggage, cargo and containers, and identification of traffickers.

Experts on hand included Karen Nott from the Namibia Nature Foundation, who gave much-needed insight into the timber trade and CITES permit system, Francois Theart from Snakes of Namibia and Bonnie Galloway from the Namibia Nature Foundation.

Galloway provided an introduction to the identification of commonly smuggled protected reptile species and protected succulents.

Hands-on experience was given in Windhoek with reptiles, plants (small succulent species and seeds), confiscated ivory and rhino horn, ivory bangles and eggs that were sent through luggage and cargo scanners. That was done to give participants a better understanding of how to look for organic products using different views and image analyses on these scanners.

According to TRAFFIC participants were then tasked to conceal wildlife contraband using different masking materials to attempt to prevent detection through the scanner.

In Walvis Bay, a truck full of packaged charcoal was used to conceal suitcases containing ivory, rhino horn and pangolin scales and sent through the container scanner. A four-wheel drive was also scanned with this luggage and participants were tasked with identifying the contraband from the different views that the scanner produced.

“It was an honour to be part of this workshop. We need more of these types of workshops. We need to share information. I hope that from now that the co-operation between customs and police will increase,” said the head of the police's Protected Resources Division, Deputy Commissioner Barry de Klerk.

The training was funded through the Combatting Wildlife Trafficking in Namibia project, funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in the United States State Department.

The project is managed by the Namibia Nature Foundation.

The training was led by TRAFFIC members Adam Pires and Dominique Prinsloo, whose participation was possible thanks to the USAID-funded Combating Wildlife Crime in the Namibia and the Kavango Zambezi Area Project (CWCP).

“Engaging with the transportation sector and freight and aviation industries is important in the fight against wildlife crime and illegal trade, but equally important is ensuring that government law enforcement agencies have the necessary capacity to deal with illegal wildlife trade,” said Prinsloo, TRAFFIC's Project Support Officer for the CWCP.