Above: LATF representative Edward Phiri (left) hands over contributed items and a certificate of commendation to ZAWA DG Xenophon Vlahakis (right).
The Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) has made a contribution of assorted law enforcement equipment and cash worth about $8000 to the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in support of the Authority’s investigations and intelligence operations.
Zambia’s representative to LATF in Nairobi, Kenya, Edward Phiri is currently in the country and handed over the contributions to ZAWA Director General Xen Vlahakis at head office in Chilanga yesterday.
Mr Phiri said that Zambia is one of the seven LATF member countries to benefit from the contribution which was made by the Canadian High Commission in Kenya to support activities against illegal wildlife trade.
LATF, whose secretariat is based in Nairobi, is an initiative that was spearheaded in 1998, by Zambia through the Zambia Wildlife Authority, with six other African countries in order to promote cross border cooperation in the fight against wildlife crime. Other member countries include Kenya, where the secretariat is now based, Tanzania, Congo Brazzaville, Uganda, Lesotho and Liberia. The Minister of Tourism and Arts is currently the rapporteur, in charge of communicating decisions governing the council.
When receiving the items, Mr Vlahakis said that the contribution will be put to proper use and will go a long way in helping ZAWA’s operations in the field.
He observed that ZAWA takes it as a great privilege and pride to have successfully pioneered the LATF initiative, and will continue in all efforts to support its operations.
“There was great pressure from other countries, who had wanted this opportunity. Infact, Zambia should have been the host country as well, but it was later decided that Kenya be made the host country. As Zambians, we should be proud of realising this collaborative venture,” he said.
Mr Vlahakis appealed to the LATF secretariat, to assist Zambia in effectively co-ordinating the rest of the neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola to become part of the initiative to effectively curb cross-border wildlife crimes.
He said that LATF has been very helpful in intelligence gathering efforts in saving what the wildlife industry could have lost through poaching and other illegal activities.
ZAWA and the Zambia Police have also been awarded certificates of commendation for having participated in the LATF global law enforcement operation, code named, “Operation Cobra II,” in which over 400 wildlife criminals were arrested and more than 350 major wildlife seizures made.
The effort was the first ever joint China-Africa undercover sting operation that identified and arrested members of a major ivory trafficking syndicate. During Operation Cobra II, investigators from participating countries joined together with the World Customs Organization (WCO), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), INTERPOL, LATF, ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) and exchanged real time intelligence on a daily basis, targeting poachers and traffickers of endangered elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins, turtles and other species sought by criminals.
Article by: Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA)
Photos by: Mwila Muliyunda