Elephant baby and parent - Explore.orgA groundbreaking regional plan was signed yesterday by Central African countries to strengthen law enforcement and better combat poaching of elephants and other species. The plan was adopted by the ten member states of Central African Forest Commission, known as COMIFAC, as escalating rates of wildlife crime plague the region.

The countries pledged to undertake unprecedented levels of cooperation with law enforcement agencies, such as the police, customs and the judiciary, to tackle the issue.

Chad, Central African Republic and Cameroon also signed a tri-partite declaration to join forces and increase transboundary collaboration to fight poaching. “This is a welcome sign and will help ensure that there will never again be a slaughter of elephants on the scale witnessed in Cameroon earlier this year,” said Lamine Sebogo, WWF’s African elephant expert.

The law enforcement action plan approved includes provisions to increase anti-poaching efforts in each of the countries and to enable joint-country patrols in some transborder areas. Ivory, often bound for Asia, is frequently smuggled across inland borders before reaching overseas exit points such as ports and airports. Under the plan, customs controls are also set to be bolstered at international transit hubs.

To ensure that criminals engaging in illegal wildlife trade are arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, COMIFAC countries plan to ramp up investigations and conduct more thorough prosecutions. Cases will also be monitored for corruption.

The meeting also resulted in the announcement of plans to hold a head of state conference next year to address wildlife loss and maintaining Africa’s biodiversity.

WWF, together with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, has provided technical and financial assistance toward the development of the plan and is offering ongoing support for implementation.

Photo courtesy of explore.org, a philanthropic media organization and multimedia arm of the Annenberg Foundation

(News source: WWF)

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