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Largest ever Africa bust on wildlife crime

afrol News, 17 November - An operation across five Africa countries over weekend, targeting wildlife crime has led to arrest of almost 60 people and seizure of one ton of illegal elephant ivory, Interpol has reported.

The one-day sweep, code-named Operation Baba, targeted more than 50 locations, including local ivory markets, airports, border crossings and smuggling points, international policying body said.

Body said arrests and seizures were part of a five-country law enforcement operation co-ordinated by INTERPOL, and involved more than 300 law enforcement officers from police, customs, national wildlife and national intelligence agencies in Congo (Brazzaville), Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, further saying this represented largest-ever international wildlife law enforcement operation conducted in Africa.

Interpol said illegal domestic ivory markets have been persistently identified by nature conservation agencies - including CITES, UN-administered endangered species treaty - as a major factor in continued poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory.

Interpol said Operation Baba was planned to address that problem and is first in a series of operations of this nature being planned worldwide.

“With the ‘globalisation’ of criminal syndicates, transnational co-operation is key to successful law enforcement, as has been seen in Operation Baba,” said Interpol's Executive Director for Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“This is where INTERPOL's central role of facilitating co-operation between law enforcement agencies in multiple countries proves its worth,” he said. “The operation’s positive results were achieved because of concerted cross-border action of police, wildlife and intelligence agencies."

Director of Interpol’s Operational Assistance, Services and Infrastructure Support (OASIS) programme, Giuliano Zaccardelli, said that OASIS helped countries in Africa mount such anti-crime operations by enhancing their capacity to address crime threats nationally, regionally and globally.

"Co-operation among countries in East, West and Southern Africa against wildlife crime has set an inspired example. Similar operations to Baba could also be conducted in Asia, the Americas and in any other region where criminals traffic illegal wildlife products,” he said.

Operation Baba was named to honour memory of Gilbert Baba, a Ghanaian Wildlife Department ranger who was murdered by illegal wildlife dealers a decade ago.

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