New Times (Rwanda)

New inter-agency committee to tackle wildlife trafficking

Ivory collected from poachers. Net

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has intensified efforts to end illegal wildlife trade.

The plan by RDB involves setting up a national inter-agency committee for combatting wildlife crimes. The move comes in a wake of widespread reports that smugglers use Rwanda as a route for their trade.

The committee comprises various stakeholders including security organs, conservationists and development partners.

This was disclosed during a consultative meeting on combating illegal wildlife trafficking and trade. It took place in Kigali on Wednesday.

Belise Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer at RDB, said that although illegal wildlife trade is not common in Rwanda, the country is sometimes used as a transit for wildlife products from other countries and some of them have been intercepted by the police.

“With visa-on-arrival policy, people are entering the country and some may have hidden agendas, including criminals involved in the lucrative dark business,” she said, adding that, “by creating an inter-agency committee we hope to have effective responses to smuggling.”

Information from Rwanda National Police shows that in 2016 there were several cases where they seized smuggled elephant tusks from Democratic Republic Congo en route to Asia, the world’s biggest black market for wildlife products.

The smugglers were both Rwandan nationals and foreigners.

According to police, in one case, 10 people were caught with 80 kilogrammes of partially processed ivory and in another 168 kilogrammes of elephant tusks involving 14 culprits, seven of them foreigners and seven Rwandans.

Rwanda’s Penal Code stipulates that anyone who poaches, sells, injures or kills a gorilla or any other protected endangered animal species is liable to a term of imprisonment of more than five to 10 years and a fine of Rwf500, 000 to Rwf5,000,000.

In 2016, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) called on the East African Community Partner States to enact new legislation with tougher penalties.

Findings by EALA’s committee on agriculture, tourism and natural resources indicate that elephants and rhinoceros were the animals most vulnerable to poaching but other species including leopards, pythons, marine turtles and others are also endangered.

The lawmakers observed that illegal wildlife trade robs the EAC and East Africans of natural capital and cultural heritage, with serious economic and social consequences.

According to Interpol, wildlife trafficking business globally fetches $10-$20 billion each year.