Challenges in Wildlife Crime Investigations

(a) Vast Terrain

One key challenge is the vast terrain. The jurisdiction in protected areas is very wide and quick response to crime scenes is sometimes not easy due to distances. Sometimes transporting of suspects from one point to another or to a court may take more than a day. This is a challenge especially where the Constitution or the law requires a suspect to be produced in court and charged with an offence within a specific period after their arrest.

(b) Lack of Basic Equipment

There is also the challenge of lack of basic equipment. Basic scene of crime kits may be lacking in the field and items such as good cameras are quite costly. Items for preservation of perishable wildlife exhibits such as freezers or liquid nitrogen canisters are costly and may not be available at field level.

(c) Dynamism of Wildlife Crime

Another challenge is the dynamism of wildlife crime. Wildlife crime offenders keep changing tactics. They are now increasingly employing tactics that destroy transient evidence. They use hired vehicles to evade forfeiture and decoy trophies to smoke out undercover officers. There is also increasing involvement of public officers in wildlife crimes.

(d) Corruptible Officials

Challenges in InvestigationCorruption is another key challenge that is hampering enforcement. Customs agencies do not strictly adhere to export procedures and processes, thereby leaving loopholes that can be taken advantage of by smugglers. Import cargo is given more attention than export cargo because it generates more revenue. Government officials who allow contraband to pass by them should be held responsible for such contraband and face criminal action.

(e) Lack of Interagency Collaboration

Law enforcement agencies are also do not collaborate, leading to a dead end in the investigations. Customs officials should take a keener interest in wildlife crimes as they not only violate wildlife laws but also customs laws which they enforce.

(f) Disabling Legislation

Some national laws are not enabling when it comes to wildlife law enforcement. They limit the enforcement power of investigators and nature of investigations. For example, some countries do not allow for admissibility of evidence collected using new technology.

(g) Lack of Political Goodwill

Political interference in wildlife crime investigations make them difficult to conclude. Protection of suspects by politicians also hampers investigations. This may be because the suspects give kick-backs to politicians or are related to them.

(h) Limited Capacity

Many countries still have limited institutional and technical capacity to investigate wildlife crimes. Further, the numbers of trained and competent investigators are thin on the ground in Wildlife protection areas. There are also few trained experts on wildlife and other criminal forensics such as wildlife DNA, ballistics, fingerprint experts etc.

(i) Transnational Nature of Offences

Challenge in InvestigationWildlife crimes are becoming transnational in nature and investigators are limited in finances and jurisdiction from carrying out law enforcement duties across the borders. The investigations therefore terminate within the country’s boundaries. Partners like Lusaka Agreement Task Force and Interpol are instrumental in assisting in investigations.

Author: DidiWamukoya

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