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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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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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Focused Conservation’s DEES Program: Empowering Conservation Crime Investigators Worldwide

Focused Conservation, in partnership with the US Department of the Interior-International Technical Assistance Program and the US State Department-INL, recently delivered an in-person training session at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV, USA. This significant event brought together 13 participants from Peru, Colombia, Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa, all members of the groundbreaking Digital Evidence Exploitation Specialist Program (DEES).

The DEES program is a unique, long-term initiative designed to provide advanced training and mentorship in digital forensics to conservation crime investigators. Under the guidance of Focused Conservation’s subject matter experts (SMEs), participants receive extensive training on identifying, seizing, extracting, and examining digital data. This data is crucial for wildlife crime intelligence operations and the criminal prosecution of illegal wildlife traffickers.

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Dr. Rowan Martin’s Journey in Parrot Conservation

Welcome to another edition of “Stories from the Bush,” where we bring you firsthand accounts from conservation heroes working tirelessly to protect wildlife. Today, we’re excited to share the story of Dr. Rowan Martin, a passionate conservationist from the World Parrot Trust, who has dedicated his career to saving Africa’s parrots from the brink of extinction.

Dr. Rowan Martin’s journey into wildlife conservation was fuelled by a deep-rooted fascination with the natural world. “I’d always been deeply interested in the natural world and took every opportunity I could to travel and study when I was younger,” he recalls. His career took him from studying a threatened parrot species on the Caribbean Island of Bonaire to a research Fellowship at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. It was during this time that he became aware of the conservation challenges facing African parrots, leading him to a pivotal realization: there was a lot of information out there that no one was acting on and there was a massive need to bridge the gap between knowledge and meaningful action. Over a decade ago, Dr. Martin, in collaboration with the World Parrot Trust, launched WPT’s Africa Conservation Programme to address these urgent needs.

Parrots in Africa face a multitude of threats, with the pet trade being one of the most severe. “The threat of capture for the pet trade looms large for many African parrots,” says Dr. Martin. Several African species have been heavily traded internationally, often without proper monitoring of the impacts on wild populations or the risks of infectious diseases. Conservation efforts led to increased protections for species like African Grey and Timneh parrots, but other species still face legal capture, endangering ecosystems and spreading diseases. Despite the 2017 ban on the international trade of wild African Grey and Timneh parrots, illegal trafficking persists, often under the guise of other bird species. Additionally, habitat loss, particularly the destruction of large mature trees crucial for nesting, remains a significant threat.

The World Parrot Trust collaborates closely with Focused Conservation to protect vulnerable species and disrupt trafficking networks in Africa. “We’ve been working with Focused Conservation in several ways to disrupt trafficking networks in Africa, including in Nigeria, Uganda, and Liberia,” Dr. Martin explains. This collaboration includes sharing intelligence gathered through field teams, advising on legal frameworks, and coordinating efforts to ensure rescued parrots receive proper care. A notable operation in Nigeria, supported by intelligence from the World Parrot Trust, led to the arrest of a parrot trafficker and the recovery of African Grey parrots. These parrots are now undergoing rehabilitation and are set for release later this year.

Dr. Martin commends Focused Conservation for their comprehensive approach. “We’re particularly thankful that Focused Conservation do not just focus on the high-profile species that often make the news but also lesser-known species, like birds, impacted by the exotic pet trade,” he notes. The collaboration between organizations with different expertise, knowledge, and capabilities is critical for having a lasting impact on trafficking networks, and Focused Conservation’s work embodies this collaborative spirit.

Local communities play a crucial role in parrot conservation efforts. “A lot of our work begins with discussions with local communities who can be vital sources of information about the parrots in their area,” says Dr. Martin. Often, the capture of parrots is carried out by specialist groups from outside the communities. Supporting local communities in protecting their natural heritage is vital. In Liberia, for example, a village adjoining an overnight roost site for hundreds of Timneh parrots has long protected these birds. According to Dr. Martin this could be the largest single roost site for the species anywhere and it only exists because of the commitment of the local community.

Combating the illegal parrot trade requires a multifaceted approach and collaboration between civil society and government. “Illegal wildlife trade is a complex problem which I believe will only be addressed if tackled from multiple angles,” Dr. Martin asserts. Understanding the socio-economic dimensions of trade, enforcing strong legal frameworks, and targeting key actors within trade networks are crucial strategies. Community engagement, educating vendors and consumers, and ensuring the responsible management of seized parrots are also important components. The return of rescued parrots to the wild can bolster depleted populations and serve as a powerful conservation message.

Balancing scientific research with advocacy and conservation action is challenging. “As a scientist, it’s easy to get caught up in what we don’t know and the uncertainties that surround any knowledge,” Dr. Martin admits. However, inaction can have significant consequences. He emphasizes the importance of taking decisive action despite uncertainties and regularly revisits Roger Pielke’s book, “The Honest Broker,” for guidance on how to navigate the messy intersection of science and activism.  

For those interested in parrot conservation, Dr. Martin advises making the most of every opportunity, working hard, being honest, and acting with integrity. “Don’t get caught out with thinking you need to be a biologist or a ‘parrot person’ to help parrot conservation,” he says. Conservation needs diverse perspectives and expertise from various backgrounds.

Ordinary citizens can contribute by reconsidering the suitability of parrots as pets and supporting frontline conservation organizations. “Think very carefully if you are considering that a parrot might be a good pet,” Dr. Martin cautions. Supporting smaller, nimble organizations that respond effectively to changing situations can make a significant difference.

Dr. Rowan Martin’s story is a testament to the power of dedicated individuals and collaborative efforts in wildlife conservation. His work with the World Parrot Trust and Focused Conservation highlights the importance of multifaceted strategies and community involvement in protecting Africa’s parrots. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from the bush as we continue to spotlight conservation heroes making a difference around the world.

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Dr. Mark Ofua: From Childhood Fascination to Wildlife Conservation Hero in Nigeria

In the heart of Nigeria resides a man whose life embodies a modern-day adventure, intricately woven with an unwavering commitment to wildlife conservation. Dr. Mark Ofua’s journey from a curious child captivated by animals to a fervent advocate for Nigeria’s biodiversity is nothing short of extraordinary.

Dr. Ofua’s collaborative partnership with Focused Conservation marked a pivotal chapter in his lifelong dedication to wildlife preservation. With the government’s newfound commitment to conservation, the emergence of Focused Conservation fortified a monumental shift in the landscape in Nigeria, infusing the movement with cutting-edge technology and unwavering dedication to wildlife protection. As a wildlife veterinarian and staunch conservationist, Dr. Ofua found himself at the heart of this transformative collaboration, working hand-in-hand with Focused Conservation to rehabilitate and release animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. Their joint efforts extend far beyond mere rescue operations; together, they engage in essential activities such as training, information sharing, and intelligence gathering, fortifying their united front in safeguarding wildlife. Yet, Dr. Ofua recognizes that true sustainability lies in nurturing local expertise and fostering a grassroots movement by investing in local capacity-building initiatives.

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Focused Conservation Joins Kenya Wildlife Service in Celebrating World Wildlife Day

In honor of World Wildlife Day, Focused Conservation had the privilege of participating in a special event hosted by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) at Nairobi National Park. The event brought together various partners and stakeholders dedicated to safeguarding Kenya’s rich wildlife heritage.

During the celebration, presentations were delivered by Embakasi School and the Young Muslim Association, showcasing innovative methods to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. These included the use of lion lights and drones, demonstrating a proactive approach to conservation challenges.

Highlighting the cultural significance of the occasion, children from Embakasi School captivated the audience with a Swahili song celebrating the hyena, adding a touch of local flair to the festivities.

Salim Ahmed Umar, serving as the honorary warden, shared insightful remarks with attendees, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts in wildlife conservation.

Focused Conservation reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to supporting wildlife protection initiatives worldwide. As part of this dedication, the organization continues to collaborate with partners like the Kenya Wildlife Service to ensure the preservation of biodiversity for future generations.

World Wildlife Day serves as a reminder of the importance of collective action in safeguarding our planet’s precious wildlife. Focused Conservation remains steadfast in its mission to protect and preserve the world’s natural treasures.

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Strengthening Our Team: Focused Conservation Welcomes Law Enforcement Expert Phill Jones

We’re thrilled to announce the latest addition to our team at Focused Conservation: Phill Jones joins us as the new Technical Advisor to the wildlife crime unit in Nigeria!

Phill brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his new role, with a distinguished career in law enforcement focused on investigating Serious Organised Crime and Asset Recovery, both in the UK and overseas. His extensive background includes work with esteemed organizations such as the Royal Navy, West Mercia Police, and the National Crime Squad (now National Crime Agency), where he spearheaded intelligence-led investigations into serious organized crime groups.

But Phill’s contributions don’t stop there! He’s also made significant strides in capacity building and knowledge sharing in anti-corruption efforts, leaving an indelible mark on countries like Tanzania and South Africa through his training and mentoring of law enforcement agencies.

As the newest member of our team, Phill steps into the role of Technical Advisor to the Nigeria Special Wildlife Office (NSWO), where he’ll play a pivotal role in combating wildlife crime and dismantling trafficking networks operating within the country. His expertise will be instrumental in advancing our mission to protect endangered species and preserve biodiversity not just in Nigeria, but across borders.

The establishment of the NSWO in 2022 by Focused Conservation in collaboration with the Nigerian Customs Service underscores our unwavering commitment to combating wildlife trafficking in Nigeria. By working hand-in-hand with local authorities, we aim to enhance their capacity and expertise to tackle this illicit trade head-on.

With decades of experience in international law enforcement, our highly skilled team at Focused Conservation is poised to offer invaluable guidance and assistance to units like the NSWO. Together, we’re driving impactful actions against wildlife crime, strengthening local authorities, and making significant strides in the fight to protect our planet’s precious wildlife.

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Strengthening Collaborative Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking in Liberia

In a significant stride towards protecting Liberia’s wildlife, Technical Advisor Danny Murphy recently took part in a pivotal 2-day event organized by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL). The event served as a platform to showcase the impactful work undertaken by Focused Conservation and the Liberia Special Wildlife Investigations Unit (SWIU). By presenting to a diverse audience including NGOs and law enforcement partners, the session fostered crucial dialogue aimed at bolstering cooperation to tackle illegal wildlife trafficking in Liberia.

Since its inception in May 2023, the Liberia Special Wildlife Investigation Unit (SWIU) has emerged as a formidable force in combating wildlife crime in the region. The team’s efforts have yielded remarkable outcomes, with numerous endangered and protected species, including chimpanzees, slender-snouted and dwarf crocodiles, lesser-spot nosed monkeys, sooty mangabees, pangolins, and African grey parrots, being seized as part of successful operations. The collaborative workshop not only highlighted these achievements but also laid the groundwork for enhanced collaboration, promising even greater success in safeguarding Liberia’s wildlife.

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Focused Conservation and Kenya DCI Forge Ahead in Wildlife Crime Combat: Strengthening Partnership

In a bid to intensify the battle against wildlife crime in Kenya, a delegation from Focused Conservation, led by CEO Wim Brown, recently convened with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) at their headquarters in Nairobi. The meeting, which included Director of Investigations Eric Stouch and DCI Director Mohamed I. Amin, underscored the unwavering commitment

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