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UK joins fight against poaching in East Africa

To counter the booming illicit trade in wildlife, 28 analysts from East Africa have trained in building intelligence and capacity to tackle wildlife crimes.

The training, supported by the UK government, comes on the coattails of Britain’s announcement of plans to ban the sale of all ivory products less than 70 years old in the UK.

The plan will make UK regulations the most stringent in the world as far as wildlife trade is concerned. The two-week training, which took place in Kampala at the British Council Examination Centre, was run by the British Peace Support Team and delivered by specialists from the British army.

Major Jamie Hayward, the head of the project, said the training was meant to counter illegal wildlife trade in the region.

“Our focus is not only on ivory and rhino horns but also on bush meat and any other practices that might harm wildlife,” Hayward said.

Maj Jamie Hayward (L) talks to Tobias Ellwood

Speaking at the event, MP Tobias Ellwood, the UK minister for Africa, who was in the country for a two-day visit, urged the participants to be more vigilant and aggressive in countering illegal wildlife trade.

“It is a serious criminal industry worth more than six billion pounds each year. It threatens some of the world’s most iconic species such as elephants and rhinos with extinction,” said Ellwood.

“It damages the economic growth of our trading partners in Africa and it is fuelled by corruption and undermines good governance and the rule of law,” he added.

In the last two years, the UK government has supported programmes tackling the illegal wildlife trade in Uganda. The country has spent about 150,000 pounds on the installation of secure arms storage facilities in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks and the establishment of an analytical veterinary laboratory in Murchison Falls national park in partnership with the Uganda Conservation Foundation.

In addition, park rangers have got extra biometric data capture equipment and trained in weapon and ammunition management, patrol planning and field medical training.

As part of this year’s training, the participants will, according to Hayward, receive laptops and software that will enable them to capture and analyze data to counter poaching, among other things.

Tom Chesang, an intelligence officer at the Mt Elgon national park, said the training will boost their networking in countering illicit trade in wildlife.

“We have been equipped with sophisticated skills on how to deal with poachers and how to detect wildlife crimes that are yet to be committed,” said Chesang.

The 28 participants include analysts from wildlife bodies in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and DR Congo.

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© 2016 Observer Media Ltd