Thaks to use of of a new data analytics solution, the multinational Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) has managed to arrest 8 people who are responsible for trafficking large consignments of endangered animals. The arrests included some government officials who colluded with the trafickers.

In total, 4 arrests were made in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the other 4 arrests were made in Congo.

โ€œOur ability to make so many key arrests in such a short period of time was due to the sharing and analysis of critical data, enabled by advanced training and technology. The officers also brushed up on law to help them make thorough and convincing cases to the court, which paid off,โ€ said Bonaventure Ebayi, Executive Director at LATF.

All of the 8 people were denied bail after appearing in court. The 3 government officials arrested are said to have been responsible for inspecting commercial exports and in the process assisting the traffickers to move the endangered wildlife between countries by labeling them as fish products and timber, when in reality they concealed elephant tusks and scales of pangolins.

โ€œMoving beyond seizures and low level arrests to high level takedowns like this are what wild elephants, pangolins and other endangered species desperately right now. People benefit too: we are finding that these same criminal chains are used to traffic everything,โ€ said said Sean Oโ€™Regan, Director at Freeland in Africa.

Freeland is a wildlife counterโ€“trafficking organization which aims to eradicate wildlife trafficking and human slavery. They have also trained the LATF-led team on their data analytics software solution which led to the arrests in the DRC and Congo. The ACE (Analytical Center of Excellence) by Freeland was developed in partnership with IBM, it runs mainly on IBM's analytical software โ€œi2โ€, which was used for the joint training and investigations. Ths helped law enforcement officers and the LATF to analyze and trace wildlife body parts. Part of the data analysis invloves being abale to link and illuminate illicit trafficking channels between Afrika and Asia. As a result, they discovered trafficking nodes along a criminal supply chain that overlaid with certain government offices and shipping companies. Evidence was then collected, and the team moved in for the quick chain of arrests. INTERPOL supported the operation.

โ€œIt is refreshing to see law enforcers using new skills and legal awareness to disrupt wildlife trafficking supply chains,โ€ said John Gantt, President of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, a partner to Freeland and African Wildlife Foundation in Africa and Asia.

Cover image credit: White rhinos at Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa. Copyright iAfrikan Digital

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