Prosecutors and judges from West and Central African countries have convened this week in Ghana for training on investigating, prosecuting and presiding over cases involving illegally taken and trafficked species of animals, fish and plants.
The training is a combined effort of multiple US government agencies—the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement—in conjunction with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Poaching and other elements of the illegal wildlife trade have created a biodiversity crisis across Africa, helped to finance criminal networks, fostered corruption, and contributed to instability.
This five-day event aims to enhance the ability of governments in West and Central Africa to prosecute and punish wildlife traffickers through the application of best practices and maximizing the use of available criminal law enforcement tools.
The training also addresses the related problems of illegal logging and illegal fisheries.
“The black market for illegal wildlife products is estimated to be worth a staggering US$19 billion per year,” said Robert P. Jackson, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, at the opening of the training.
“Unsurprisingly, criminal organizations focus on trading whatever earns them the most money—such as drugs, weapons, and other illicit items. Until trafficking in wildlife presents a real threat to their freedom and their income, they will continue to harvest these products illegally for their own benefit.”
In her remarks to the participants, Ghana’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, stated: “The organized and trans-border nature of the activities of wildlife traffickers requires a concerted approach to dealing with this menace. A combination of country-level initiatives coupled with regional and international interventions is needed to break this criminal ring and restore balance in our environment. Ghana will always play a leading role in such intervention.”