The launch of SADC Trade in Wildlife Information Exchange (TWIX) in April 2019 is another milestone not only in the implementation of the Law Enforcement and Antipoaching (LEAP) Strategy but more importantly in the enhancing collaborative multi-agency cross-border law enforcement in combating wildlife crime. Crime syndicates have thrived on poorly networked law enforcement operatives. The criminals have robust illegal networks globally yet officials operating in isolation have to contend with protocols and procedures to access and share information. The roll out and operationalisation of SADC TWIX is, therefore, an important step in enhancing the fight against wildlife crime.
Despite the SADC region being a custodian of the highest population of charismatic species such as elephants and rhinos, it has not been spared from poaching and trafficking of wildlife and their specimens. There is a marked increase overall in poaching of elephants and rhino largely due to the high value of ivory and Rhino horn on the international black market, especially in south East Asia where markets provide a significant incentive for this illegal trade. Trafficking has become a lucrative business worldwide operated by criminal syndicates. Large-scale seizures of ivory, mostly originating from Africa bear testimony to this. It is for this reason that SADC Member States led by the Secretariat and with support from the German Government through the GIZ Transboundary Use and Protection of Natural Resources (SADC/GIZ TUPNR) programme formulated the LEAP Strategy as a response to the increased illegal wildlife crime. Launched in 2015, the purpose of the LEAP Strategy is to provide a framework for national and regional cooperation and to encourage concerted action by SADC Member States in the protection, management, conservation and sustainable use of their wildlife and other natural resource. The overall objective is to significantly reduce the level of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife fauna and flora and enhance law enforcement capacity in the SADC Region by 2021.
One of important activities in the Strategy is the development of a SADC TWIX premised on EU-TWIX which is an internet-based tool that can facilitate information exchange and international cooperation between wildlife, customs and law-enforcement officers across borders. With support the global GIZ - Partnership against Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade in Africa and Asia project, TRAFFIC was engaged to develop this SADC -TWIX which was launched in Johannesburg, South Africa on 10th April 2019. Two consultative workshops were held to agree on the concept and put in place modalities in the implementation of the tool. The participants were also taken through the basic elements of the tool and they unanimously endorsed it. The launch in April was attended by 47 officials from 14 SADC Member States and the system has got 460 users at the time of the launch spanning across the entire SADC Region.