Wildlife Crime Detection Training to Customs Officials Completed

South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) in collaboration with the Government of Nepal, WWF Nepal and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) successfully organized "Training on Wildlife Crime Detection to Customs Officials of Nepal" on 20-22 February 2019 in Godavari, Lalitpur, Nepal. The major objective of the training was to capacitate the Customs Officials in wildlife crime detection with focus in wildlife parts and products identification.

The three-day training program was started with a brief inauguration ceremony. Mr. Pradeep Bhattarai, Senior Environment Officer of SAWEN, welcomed all the participants and highlighted that the efforts of SAWEN in combating illegal wildlife trade was not possible without the empowerment and coordination with the law enforcement officials including Customs.

The program was jointly inaugurated by the Chairperson of the ceremony, Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka, Chief Enforcement Coordinator of SAWEN and Director General of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation; and Special Guest Mr. Toyam Raya, Director General of Department of Customs. Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka emphasized the important role of customs officials in combating illegal wildlife trade as being the frontline law enforcement personnel in border areas and assured to continue such initiative of capacitating Customs Officials in Nepal. Further he stressed on the need of such training to disseminate knowledge and create awareness on illegal wildlife trade to hinder the growing illegal trade in wild species. Special Guest of the ceremony, Mr. Toyam Raya acknowledged the effort of SAWEN, and collaborative partners in attempt to empower Customs Officials on wider aspects of wildlife crime and realizing the role of customs officials in this sector. He also urged the trainees to collect outmost knowledge on this subject matter and requested to spread the knowledge in their working area. Guest for the program, Mr. Shiva Raj Bhatta, Director of Program, WWF Nepal emphasized the importance of biodiversity, its severity in today's context and appealed all the Customs Officials in playing proactive and positive role for their conservation by minimizing illegal wildlife trade.

Altogether 25 participants attended in the training representing different offices under the Department of Customs including Tribhuvan International Airport Customs Office, and offices located in Kakadvitta, Rasuwa, Bhairahawa, Lamabagar, Biratnagar, Birgunj, and Nepalgunj. Facilitators from Nepal and India highlighted ranges of issues related to core theme of the training during three-days' program. The training under nine presentation topics covered biodiversity conservation and protected wildlife in Nepal; CITES, legal framework, institutional setup and interagency cooperation in wildlife crime control in Nepal; role of partner organizations in biodiversity conservation in Nepal; Global wildlife crime scenario and responses with special focus in South Asia; wildlife crime scenario in Nepal including illegal wildlife trade trends, nature and wildlife crime investigation; wildlife forensics and evidence collection in Nepal; wildlife crime intelligence, risk assessment, modus operendi, detection technique; wildlife and wildlife parts identification; wildlife crime laws and prosecution in Nepal. A brief discussion session was organized to explore issues and challenges of illegal wildlife trade in customs in Nepal and also possible way forward.

The training was fruitful to build up basic knowledge of wildlife crime and its broader dimension to the customs officials of Nepal. The participants realized that the training was eye opening to them and crucial to enhance understandings of present context in wildlife crime and probable ways to intervene nexus of the crime as well as develop knowledge and skills to identify wildlife and its commodities. They have assured for committed actions in the fight against wildlife crime. Further, this was an opportunity to build a new relation among Customs and other law enforcement agencies of Nepal such as Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal Police, Office of Attorney, Forensic Lab etc. as well as Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, India.

The training was concluded with brief closing ceremony where participants shared their experience about the training. In the ceremony, Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka, on behalf of the Government of Nepal and SAWEN emphasized on the need of collaboration among Customs Offices and SAWEN to curb illegal trade in wildlife. The training came to an end with him handing over the "Certificate of Participation" to all the participants.