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Wildlife Officials Train for Cross-Border Cooperation

FILE - Kenyan Wildlife Rangers assess elephant carcass in Tsavo, June 19, 2014.

Law enforcement and wildlife officials from eight African countries on Monday joined forces for a training program aimed at bringing wildlife traffickers to justice.

The week-long training session, co-sponsored by the African Wildlife Foundation and International Fund for Animal Welfare, is designed to familiarize officials and law enforcers with ways of stopping traffickers of illegal animal products.

Known as ARREST, or Africa's Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are all taking part in the initiative.

According Samuel Mutai, the head of Wildlife Trade Project East Africa, ARREST is best described as training officials in detecting environmental crimes.

"It basically targets wildlife agencies, prosecutors, police and customs who are going to be trained how to handle wildlife crime issues,” he said.

Participants learn how to use sniffer dogs when conducting searchers, how to check containers and cargo at ports and airports, and how to prepare documentation for prosecutors and police so it can be valid in front of a judge.

Mutai says the wildlife agencies expect to improve cross-border and regional collaboration in the fight against crimes such as illegal ivory and rhino horn trafficking, which have been on the increase.

“Wildlife trafficking is a cross-border issue, [so] when you have all these countries [involved] it becomes easier to handle these cases," he said. "If someone does commit a crime in Kenya then he travels to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, then information can be shared within the channels.”

The investigative teams established under ARREST will talk with those under a similar program in Asia.

The training is expected to conclude on Friday.