Organizational Updates

AWF and UWA Release Wildlife Cybercrime Investigations Results

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The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) on September 14-15, 2021 held a debrief meeting of its wildlife cybercrime investigations program at a hotel in Entebbe, Uganda. The debrief, organized in partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), assessed the results and deliberated on areas of potential improvement from recent investigations into poaching rings in Murchison, Kampala, Queen Elizabeth, and Kibale.

“AWF realizes the importance of supporting routine and special cybercrime investigation operations focused on key wildlife crime hotspots in Uganda. The operations, conducted in collaboration with UWA, include field investigations to apprehend wildlife cybercrime offenders, monitor illegal online markets, disrupt criminal enterprises, seize illegal wildlife products, and prosecute offenders,” said Ernest Agina, AWF's Manager for Cybercrime Investigations.

AWF’s role has been to train UWA officers as first responders and mobile forensic experts. More than 30 officers have been trained so far.

Two successful operations were conducted this year. In May 2021, the first operation, dubbed operation Fata Poacher 1, took place over eight days within Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Sixteen suspects were arrested, and 12 cases were registered by UWA. The exhibits recovered during the investigations include 3.5 kg of dry pangolin scales, head of smoked pangolin, one motorcycle, 74 heads of cattle, 55 kg of bushmeat (waterbuck, buffalo, duiker, and Uganda kob), one spear, seven fishing nets, 10 canoes, 17 oars, six mobile phones, 100 pieces of catfish, one knife, three metal wheel traps, one buffalo horn, and one Uganda Kob horn.

The second operation, dubbed operation Fata Poacher 2, was conducted in June and July this year with a wider scope: Kampala Metropolitan, Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, and Kibale Conservation Area. Seventeen suspects were arrested, and 14 cases were registered by UWA. The recoveries included 14.2 kg of raw elephant ivory, 504 kg of assorted wildlife meat, 80 green pigeons, two tortoises, one kob horn, 40 heads of cattle, two parrots, and one elephant penis. Also recovered were two motorcycles, one fishing net, 30 wire snares, four metal plates, one knife, four pangas, two spears, six phones, and one computer.

These figures contribute to the 116 persons arrested in Kenya and Uganda from routine and special investigations relating to wildlife cybercrime.

The AWF cybercrime program started in 2019. The program's goal is to reduce or stop trafficking in wildlife products using online, digital and electronic platforms and disrupt criminal networks engaging in illegal online wildlife trade. The project has two main objectives: to prevent wildlife trafficking through enhancing wildlife cybercrime investigations and interventions, and to train and build law enforcers' capacity to combat wildlife cybercrime.