Yaoundé, Cameroon, 21st December 2015—a TRAFFIC-led visit to four countries in Central Africa—Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo and Gabon—has enlisted the support of key enforcement personnel for exchanging intelligence information as part of a regional drive against illegal wildlife trade and crime.
The initiative was carried out to enable the establishment of a “Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange in Africa” or “AFRICA-TWIX” (working name) communications platform and seizures database for enforcement officials in the region.
AFRICA-TWIX will mirror the European Union Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange (EU-TWIX) system, whose tenth anniversary of operation was celebrated earlier this month.
For a decade EU-TWIX, which is managed by TRAFFIC, has been facilitating the monitoring of illegal wildlife trade by enforcement officials across Europe. Currently there are more than 800 members of EU-TWIX from over 100 European enforcement agencies and representing all 28 EU Member States, plus Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey and the Ukraine.
In 2014, at least 13 criminal investigations were initiated as a result of the over 500 enforcement-related messages exchanged that year via the EU-TWIX forum. The mailing list is also used by officials to seek assistance on species identifications, enabling decisions to be taken quickly on whether shipments should be seized.
“After 10 years of operation in Europe, the benefits of rapid, secure information exchange between enforcement officials are clear: using EU-TWIX as a model for replication in other regions has been a long-term goal, and today it is exciting to see that ambition being realized in Africa,” said TRAFFIC’s Vinciane Sacré, manager of EU-TWIX.
During the recent participatory needs assessment in Central Africa, 25 working sessions on the objectives and benefits of using AFRICA-TWIX were held across the four pilot countries with senior enforcement personnel including representatives from Forestry and Wildlife Administrations, Customs, police, gendarmerie, INTERPOL, the judiciary, the Lusaka Task Force Agreement and intergovernmental organizations as well as agencies including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the CITES Secretariat.
“We know many of the poachers and we know their methods, what we lack is mechanisms to facilitate timely intervention: a gap which AFRICA-TWIX will help fill via the rapid exchange of enforcement information,” said Mr Zonleleth Arnaud, Head of the Environmental Crime Division of the Lusaka Task Force Agreement.
The establishment of AFRICA-TWIX is timely, coming as it does against the backdrop of record levels of poaching in parts of Africa, which has stirred high-level political resolve and commitments to address the crisis amid the growing recognition of the impact of wildlife crime on wider biodiversity as well as on indigenous peoples and local communities. The negative impacts of transnational wildlife crime is considered to influence broader issues such as rule of law, national security, rural livelihoods and economic development.
The aims of AFRICA-TWIX are also consistent with the Central Africa Forest Commission’s (COMIFAC) Central Africa Wildlife Law Enforcement Action Plan (CAWLEAP), commonly known by its French acronym PAPECALF, which aims to strengthen national wildlife law enforcement.
A workshop will take place early in 2016 in Douala, Cameroon, with relevant agencies from the four pilot countries officially to launch and agree on the implementation and management of AFRICA-TWIX.
The establishment of AFRICA-TWIX has been supported by the German Polifund project, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).
 PAPECALF stands for: "Plan d’action sous-régional des pays de l’espace COMIFAC pour le renforcement de l’application des législations nationales sur la faune sauvage"