COBRA initiative enhances partnership in fighting transnational wildlife crime

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COBRA initiative enhances partnership in fighting transnational wildlife crime

Nairobi, Kenya; 14th September 2015: A three-day multi-agency workshop titled “Post COBRA

III Operational Review and Training Workshop” was successfully concluded on 4th September 2015 in

Arusha, Tanzania. The workshop brought together 42 participants mainly national and international

coordinators of the global Operation COBRA III drawn from African and Asian countries as well as

governmental/intergovernmental organizations. The participating countries comprised Botswana,

Congo (Brazzaville), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda

and Zambia and four (4) Asian countries namely Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The

organizations included Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) on Cooperative Enforcement Operations

Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora; and Association of South East Asia Nations - Wildlife

Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) Law Enforcement Extension Office, National and Transnational

Serious Crime Investigation Unit of Tanzania, US Fish and Wildlife Service, USAID, United Nations

Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, World Customs Organization- Regional Intelligence

Liaison Office for Eastern and Southern Africa (WCO-RILO ESA) and TRAFFIC.

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COBRA is a multi-regional wildlife law enforcement operation initiated by regional wildlife

enforcement agencies/networks comprising Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), ASEAN-WEN, South

Asian Wildlife Enforcement Network (SA-WEN) as well as countries namely USA, China and South

Africa. The operation was inspired by the need to put into action commitments made by governments

and the international community to address wildlife crime. Operation COBRA bridges source, transit

and destination countries of wildlife contraband to jointly fight transnational organized wildlife crime.

To date, three (3) COBRA operations have successfully been carried out in years 2013, 2014 and 2015.


During the workshop’s opening session, Dr. Adlehem Meru, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of

Natural Resource and Tourism of Tanzania stated that Operation COBRA was “a classic example of

what effective inter-agency cooperation can yield in the region and beyond”. He commended the

COBRA initiative for the catalytic role it plays in bridging source, transit and destination countries of

wildlife contraband specifically in combating wildlife trafficking which is a major threat to species

survival hence to economies and people’s livelihoods. He pointed out that the workshop was timely

and reiterated the commitment of the Tanzanian Government to steadfastly enhance collaborative


efforts in wildlife conservation in the region.

The workshop evaluated operation COBRA III outcomes in Africa and came up with strategies and

concrete recommendations to be implemented by countries, organizers and supporting partners on

the financial sustainability of the COBRA initiative, effective planning and execution of the operation,

Addressing of capacity and skill gaps and responding to emerging wildlife crime trends. The

participants urged the organizers, coordinators and supporters of the COBRA initiative to explore long

term funding with governments and partners.


Mr. Bonaventure Ebayi, Director LATF, took note of the success of Operation COBRA III which he

attributed to the collective resolve and commitment of agencies working together, and stated that

the COBRA initiative should be a model to be developed further. He reaffirmed that the initiative

provides opportunities for building lasting relationships and collaboration for bolstering the war

against illegal wildlife trade. He commended the workshop for developing a roadmap for the effective

undertaking of similar operations in the future and called for increased support from governments

and the international community to ensure sustainability of the initiative.


Mr. Javier Montano, Regional Coordinator Wildlife and Forest Crime Programme - Eastern Africa for

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), stated “UNODC recognizes the tremendous gains

to be made in the fight against illicit trafficking in wildlife products from greater coordination and

cooperation across national and regional boundaries. It is only in this way that the full extent of the

networks involved can be exposed and dismantled. At UNODC’s Global Programme for Combatting

Wildlife and Forest Crimes, and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC),

we are encouraged by the exchanges during the workshop and its outcomes, which reflect the

determination of all participant agencies to stamp out organized wildlife crime."


Ms. Juniper Neill, Environment Director for USAID/Kenya and East Africa, thanked LATF for their

leadership in organizing this important event, and emphasized that the US Government is committed

to supporting the global fight against transnational wildlife crime. “Through our partnership with

IUCN/TRAFFIC, we are pleased to continue our efforts to support country, regional and transcontinental

action to stamp out wildlife trafficking which threatens the very survival of iconic species

and the sustainable development of communities and countries that rely on wildlife based tourism as

a significant percentage of economic growth.”


Ms. Julie Thomson, the East Africa Programme Coordinator of TRAFFIC stated “COBRA III represents

the largest coordinated global law enforcement operation of its kind to tackle illegal wildlife trade,

particularly between Africa and Asia. It was a privilege for TRAFFIC to co-convene this review

workshop and facilitate an open dialogue between participating countries and agencies in an effort to

build on successful practices and enhance the effectiveness of future operations. “

The workshop was organized and supported by LATF, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

(UNODC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and TRAFFIC-the wildlife trade

monitoring network through the Wildlife-TRAPS Project, in collaboration with Wildlife Division-


The organizers of the Review and Training Workshop wish to commend and thank the European

Commission, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), U.S. Department of

State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), ASEAN-WEN, LATF, SAWEN,


Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), China National Interagency CITES Enforcement Coordination

Group (NICECG), ASEAN Police (ASEANPOL) and US Fish Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the 62

Participating countries for successful execution of Operation COBRA III in May 2015.