The International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), has deployed the first ever Wildlife Incident Support Team (WIST) to Sri Lanka. The WIST programme was put together at the last CITES meeting in Bangkok earlier this year. It’s aim is to bring together the worlds resources and experts to aid a country that has been affected by a significant poaching incident.
The Interpol team that was despatched to Sri Lanka reported on earlier is a lead player of the specialist WIST Team. Their task is to provide forensic support to Sri Lankan authorities who intercepted a cargo of 359 elephant tusks that were seized by Sri Lanka Customs authorities in the port of Colombo.
John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, stressed that “the successful deployment of this wildlife incident support team (WIST) in Sri Lanka by INTERPOL demonstrates the hands-on support now being delivered to CITES Parties through ICCWC“.
“Large illegal shipments of ivory, such as the one seized in Sri Lanka, are often an indicator suggesting that organized crime groups are involved. It is imperative that follow-up investigations and prosecutions, especially targeted at the ‘king pins’ behind organized criminal syndicates, are conducted. The effective use of all available resources in the investigation of transnational organized wildlife crime, including through the use of wildlife forensics, is crucial” added Mr. Scanlon.
The samples have been sent for analysis to the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington in the United States for DNA analysis – to identify the origin of the ivory – and to the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation for chemical isotope analysis, to determine the age of the ivory.
ICCWC is the collaborative effort by the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank, and the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to bring coordinated support to the national wildlife law enforcement agencies and to the sub-regional and regional networks that, on a daily basis, act in defence of natural resources. The deployment of the WIST was generously funded by the European Commission under a project managed by INTERPOL on behalf of ICCWC.