Author name: Tim

Recognizing Belkasoft’s Vital Support in Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade Through Digital Forensics

Focused Conservation wants to recognize Belkasoft, a supporter in the effort to dismantle and disrupt the illegal wildlife trade. After learning about the recent success of our Digital Evidence Exploitation Specialist (DEES) training program, Yuri Gubanov, who founded Belkasoft in 2002, reached out to offer support to the participants of the DEES program by providing […]

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JOINT INVESTIGATION Leads to largest Seizure of Pangolin Scales in Liberia

In a coordinated effort, the Special Wildlife Investigations Unit (SWIU), supported by Focused Conservation and the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC), successfully conducted a joint operation resulting in the arrest of four suspects and the seizure of 525 kilograms of pangolin scales in Monrovia, Liberia, on 10 July 2024. The SWIU is comprised of officers from the Liberian National Police, Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Liberia Revenue Authority Customs Department and is mentored in Liberia by Focused Conservation.

The operation was initiated based on intelligence provided by the Wildlife Justice Commission, as part of an ongoing investigation into the trafficking of pangolin scales from Africa to Asia. Intelligence analysis had identified links between one of the key Liberian suspects and a pangolin scale trafficking network in Nigeria.

The investigation is known as Operation Lime.

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Joint Operation Leads to Major Seizure of Pangolin Scales in Liberia

a coordinated effort, the Special Wildlife Investigations Unit (SWIU), supported by Focused Conservation and the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC), successfully conducted a joint operation known as Operation Lime. This operation, which took place on 10 July 2024 in Monrovia, Liberia, resulted in the arrest of four suspects and the seizure of 525 kilograms of pangolin scales.

The SWIU is comprised of officers from the Liberian National Police, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and the Liberia Revenue Authority Customs Department. This unit receives mentorship in Liberia from Focused Conservation, enhancing their capability to combat wildlife trafficking.

Operation Lime was initiated based on intelligence provided by the Wildlife Justice Commission as part of an ongoing investigation into the trafficking of pangolin scales from Africa to Asia. The intelligence analysis revealed links between a key Liberian suspect and a pangolin scale trafficking network in Nigeria.

This operation highlights the successful collaboration between the Wildlife Justice Commission, Focused Conservation, and all relevant authorities and partners, ensuring the seamless execution of this critical mission. This operation represents the largest reported seizure of pangolin scales in Liberia and follows other successful operations where over 1.4 tonnes of pangolin scales have been seized since the Special Wildlife Investigations Unit was formed in May 2023,” noted a spokesperson for Focused Conservation.

This significant achievement underscores the dedication and effectiveness of the joint efforts to protect wildlife from illegal trafficking and preserve biodiversity for future generations.

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Uganda Wildlife Crime Unit’s Swift Action in Operation Ames

On Thursday, July 4th, 2024, the Uganda Wildlife Crime Unit (UWCU) successfully led a multi-agency operation known as Operation Ames, resulting in the arrest of two suspects involved in the illegal trade of elephant ivory.

Acting on intelligence developed over several days, UWCU operatives deployed to the Wakiso District, posing as potential buyers to engage with the suspects. The suspects, who agreed to supply a quantity of ivory believed to be sourced from the Gulu Region in Northern Uganda.

During the negotiations, the ivory was verified at a business premises. Upon confirmation, the UWCU operatives initiated the arrest phase. The location was swiftly surrounded by a support team consisting of colleagues from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Uganda Police Force (UPF), ensuring a successful and safe operation.

The suspects and the 11.4 kilograms of ivory were transported to Kira Police Station in Kampala, where the ivory was examined by a UWA expert.

Operation Ames highlights the UWCU’s ability to react swiftly and decisively to intelligence, demonstrating the effectiveness of collaborative efforts in combating wildlife trafficking.

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Uganda Wildlife Crime Unit’s Bold Ivory Seizure in Operation Delray

On Monday, July 1st, 2024, the Uganda Wildlife Crime Unit (UWCU), in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Police Force (UPF), executed a high-risk, multi-agency operation known as Operation Delray. This operation led to the arrest of two suspects involved in the illegal trade of 30.65 kilograms of elephant ivory.

Acting on intelligence developed over several days, UWCU operatives, posing as potential buyers, engaged with two suspects in Kampala. The traffickers, who appeared cautious and were believed to be members of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF). The operatives managed the situation with contingency measures to ensure their safety.

The operatives were taken to a hotel near a major UPDF barracks, where the ivory was verified and weighed after nearly two hours. While traveling to the agreed location for the money exchange, the traffickers suddenly stopped at a petrol station and insisted on completing the transaction there. The UWCU operative quickly called in the arresting officers, and the location was surrounded by a support team. One suspect was arrested on the spot, while the other attempted to escape by scaling a barbed wire fence and jumping onto a nearby roof. He was eventually detained by the arrest team, assisted by brave members of the public.

The suspects and the ivory were transported to a local police station. During the crime scene examination, a Jericho SLP pistol and a magazine containing 14 rounds was recovered. The suspects were confirmed as UPDF soldiers attached to the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JAT). One 9mm round was initially missing from the recovered magazine but was later found during a thorough search.

The ivory, consisting of four pieces, was examined by a UWA expert, who concluded it likely came from the same elephant. The suspects remain in custody at a Kampala police station, with one already pleading guilty as the main offender.

Operation Delray underscores the UWCU’s ability to react decisively to intelligence and conduct successful, challenging, and safe operations in collaboration with partner law enforcement agencies.

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Operation Steamer Trunk- Saving pangolins in South Africa

On June 28, 2024, an extraordinary collaboration between Pretoria K9, Bronkhorstspruit K9, Bronkhorstspruit Detectives, and the Tswane Metro Police Department (Drug and Bylaws Enforcement), alongside Focus Conservation, led to the successful interception of the illegal pangolin trade in South Africa. Acting on a tip-off, authorities launched an undercover operation to investigate a reported two pangolins being offered for sale.

At the designated meeting point, two suspects with suitcases were apprehended. Upon inspection, the pangolins were confirmed to be in the suitcases, valued at R800,000. The pangolins were safely recovered and transported to the Johannesburg Wildlife Hospital for immediate care.

The operation resulted in the arrest of two suspects and the seizure of four cell phones. Additionally, one of the suspects was identified as an illegal immigrant. This successful operation underscores the critical role of collaboration between law enforcement agencies and conservation organizations in tackling wildlife crime.

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Uganda Wildlife Crime Unit’s Successful Ivory Seizure in Operation Goshen

On Thursday, June 27, 2024, a successful multi-agency operation, known as Operation Goshen, led by the Uganda Wildlife Crime Unit (UWCU), culminated in the arrest of a suspect involved in the illegal trade of elephant ivory. The operation resulted in the seizure of 24.6 kilograms of ivory, marking a significant victory in the fight against wildlife trafficking.

Acting on real-time intelligence, operatives from the UWCU, stationed in Kampala, swiftly responded to a tip indicating a male attempting to sell a quantity of ivory. Posing as potential buyers, the operatives engaged the suspect, who supplied 12 cut pieces of ivory at a hotel rendezvous. The location was promptly surrounded by a support team consisting of colleagues from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Uganda Police Force (UPF), leading to the successful arrest of the suspect.

The seized ivory, meticulously examined by a UWA expert, revealed that it originated from at least six different elephants. Although considered a modest seizure, this finding underscores the severe impact of poaching on wildlife populations.

This operational conclusion once again demonstrates the UWCU’s ability, in collaboration with partner law enforcement agencies, to react decisively to intelligence and mount a successful, swift, and safe operation.

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Kenya Wildlife Task Force Unveils Operation Ridley

On June 21, 2024, the Kenya Wildlife Task Force (KWTF) successfully executed Operation Ridley, targeting illegal wildlife trafficking involving African Rock Python skins. This critical investigation, conducted near Nairobi, focused on disrupting a trafficking network dealing in the skins of these protected reptiles.

During the undercover operation, KWTF officers were offered one python skin, leading to the immediate arrest of two suspects. The suspects were charged with violations of the Wildlife and Conservation Management Act, underscoring the legal consequences of wildlife trafficking. Both individuals have since pled guilty to the charges, marking a victory in the fight against wildlife crime.

Operation Ridley highlights the relentless dedication of KWTF and their ongoing efforts to protect Kenya’s wildlife. The success of this operation demonstrates the effectiveness of coordinated law enforcement and conservation efforts in tackling illegal wildlife trade.

Focused Conservation remains committed to supporting such crucial initiatives, providing expertise, resources, and training to empower local authorities in their fight against wildlife trafficking.

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Operation Bartow: Successful Multi-Agency Effort Leads to Rescue of Ground Pangolin

Operation Bartow reflects a successful multi-agency operation led by the Uganda Wildlife Crime Unit (UWCU) that culminated in the arrest of two suspects who unlawfully supplied a live Ground Pangolin.

On Thursday, June 20, 2024, operatives attached to the UWCU concluded an investigation into a group of traffickers offering a live Pangolin for sale. The team traveled to Soroti, central Uganda, posing as potential buyers to meet with the traffickers. Upon confirming the presence of the animal, an arrest team, including colleagues from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Police Force (UPF), moved in to make the arrests and seize the animal. Additionally, a motorcycle used to transport the suspects and the Pangolin was confiscated.

The rescued animal is an adult male Ground Pangolin, found in a backpack with significant injuries to its head and body inflicted by the traffickers. The SWCU team administered emergency first aid, and the Pangolin, now mobile, is currently en route to Kampala for further treatment by UWA veterinary experts.

The UWCU’s prompt response to intelligence has once again highlighted their capability to rescue live animals and apprehend those who exploit wildlife for personal gain. This swift action undoubtedly saved the Pangolin from further mistreatment.

The suspects are in custody in Soroti, pending the completion of the investigation. They will be transferred to Kampala Central Police Station and will appear before the Special Wildlife Crime Court in Kampala.

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Community Effort to Clean Nairobi National Park’s Mokoyeti River

Today, Focused Conservation and Friends of Nairobi National Park (FONNAP), in collaboration with the US Embassy Nairobi and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), organized a successful litter clean-up along the Mokoyeti River within Nairobi National Park. This effort saw around 55 volunteers from the US Embassy, supported by KWS Senior Warden, armed rangers, KWS guides, and FONNAP members, come together to clear plastic bags, bottles, cups, and polystyrene that had been washed into the park following recent heavy rains.

The clean-up focused on preventing the litter from being washed downstream into the park’s dams, where it can entangle birds and other wildlife, often leading to fatalities. By removing this waste, the volunteers have helped protect the park’s ecosystem and wildlife.

Nairobi National Park, a unique wildlife reserve located just outside Kenya’s bustling capital, is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The Mokoyeti River, which runs through the park, is a vital water source for many of these species. Keeping it clean is crucial for maintaining the health and balance of this natural habitat.

Special thanks to KWS, the US Embassy Nairobi, and FONNAP for their support and participation in this important conservation effort!

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