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Interpol again emphasize urgent need to combat wildlife trafficking
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has emphasized the need to combat wildlife trafficking involving criminal networks operating in Eastern, Central and West Africa.

Davyth Stewart, Coordinator with Interpol’s Environmental Security Programme, said combating the trafficking in wildlife products like wooden logs and charcoal, would have massive benefits to local communities, which require law enforcement agencies to work together.

"I see the work that can be done by the law enforcement agencies in controlling the exploitation of natural resources to have a lot of benefits to local communities if we work together to cut off local supply chains," Stewart told Xinhua in an interview on the sidelines of the UN Environment Assembly.

According to the Interpol, Somalia’s Al-Shabaab previously controlled trade in charcoal products within the territories under its control. However, the group lost control over some of the areas to a combined force of the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) and the Somali Army under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Stewart said the shifting control that the Al-Shabaab has had in the past over the territory in Somalia has been weakened by the "constant battle for power" between the AMISOM and the Kenyan troops.

"Their involvement in charcoal trade also shifts depending on the territory where charcoal moves.

"When they lose the territory, they lose the profits. Charcoal trade is one of the things that certainly was a source of profits for the Al-Shabaab depending on whether or not they reclaim control of territory."

The illegal trade in wildlife products is one of the main issues that has dominated the discussions at the UNEA meeting, which kicked off on May 23 and was due to end on May 27.

Stewart said Interpol’s Counter-Terrorism Unit was currently taking an interest in the movement of Al-Shabaab fighters between East to West and Central Africa.

"They are certainly trying to spread their influence westwards and into Central Africa. This is an ongoing issue and the battle for territorial control as well," Stewart said.

"There are suggestions of Al-Shabaab and terrorist groups generally involved in wildlife crimes and natural resource exploitation, not just in Kenya, but further west, trying to control trade, not just in charcoal, but other wildlife products," Stewart said.


Spanish police seize illegal ivory in Madrid home

MADRID Spain (Xinhua) -- Spanish police have seized 74 elephant tusks from a home in Madrid.

The tusks, which weigh a total of 744 kg and have a reported value of around 240,000 U.S. dollars, come from the endangered African bush elephant Loxodonta Africana, a species whose numbers have been severely hit by illegal hunting and which is protected by an agreement signed by 179 countries.

The joint investigation with authorities from Mozambique began in March after suspicions were aroused when Spanish officials were informed by trade inspectors that someone was attempting to legalize the sale of the 74 tusks.

The person, who has not been named, said the tusks were an inheritance and dated back to the 1970s, while attempting to back this up with the relevant hunting permit.

Spanish police and Mozambique authorities discovered the permit was from 2016 and allowed for the killing of just one elephant and not the 37 needed to supply 74 tusks.

The Spanish Civil Guard seized the tusks and has charged the person responsible with smuggling, falsifying documents and offences against endangered species.

In a statement, the Civil Guard said the seizure "contributes to reducing the poaching of species for international trade," adding that the investigation shows "the illegal trafficking of protected, wild animals, considered by the proper authorities to be the third biggest illegal criminal activity worldwide."

Trafficking in protected animals is worth an estimated 8-20 billion euros (8.94-22.36 billion U.S. dollars) per year, police said.

Namibia vows to campaign against hunting ban

WINDHOEK Namibia (Xinhua) -- Namibia has vowed to oppose any calls on the banning or restricting hunting and exporting of wildlife products.

According to Cabinet minutes made available Thursday, the environment ministry was instructed to actively campaign against any attempts to ban or restrict hunting and exporting of wildlife products.

Government ministers and officials were also encouraged to participate in the campaign by supporting the decision whenever they engage at international fora.

"Cabinets supports the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in its efforts to engage with partners in conservation and development in intensifying measures aimed at stopping wildlife crimes," the minutes said.

To this end, the minutes further said, a code of conduct for conservation hunting is being developed accompanied by improvements in the regulation of hunting and strengthening the link between hunting and conservation.

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