The Wildlife Justice Commission delivered the last of three targeted capacity-building courses, focusing on strengthening intelligence gathering and cybercrime investigations to the Sabah Wildlife Department and Sabah Forestry Departments in Malaysia.
The training courses, funded by WWF Asia-Pacific Counter-Illegal Wildlife Trade Hub (HUB) and supported by WWF-Malaysia in Sabah, spanned from July to September 2022, and aimed at enhancing the ability of Sabah enforcement officers to effectively tackle wildlife cybercrime and to use advanced investigation techniques in wildlife crime cases. Seven Sabah Wildlife Department and seven Sabah Forestry Department officers were trained by the Wildlife Justice Commission on open-source intelligence, evidence gathering, report writing, intelligence, and online investigations, to improve the quality of proactive, intelligence-led investigations for wildlife and forestry crime cases.
In line with the Wildlife Justice Commission’s continuous call for regional and international cooperation in the fight against wildlife crime, Thai officers who attended similar training programmes in Thailand, were invited to participate to present on case studies to Sabah officers and to emphasise the necessity of cooperation in cases of cyber-enabled wildlife criminality affecting both countries.
A wide range of wildlife and forestry crime concerning species such as marine turtles, Sunda pangolins, Bornean elephants, agarwood and sun bears have been reported in the Sabah region over the past decade. The use of closed groups on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are among commonly preferred methods used by sellers and brokers around the world, including Sabah, to advertise and trade wildlife.
“We welcome the opportunity to enhance capabilities of wildlife cybercrime investigations and are keen to continue working with the Wildlife Justice Commission to achieve even greater regional capacity”, said Shaun Martin, Senior Project Manager, WWF HUB.
“This programme will equip our officers with the necessary tools to tackle wildlife crime occurring on online platforms, and more generally how to apply advanced investigation techniques in wildlife crime cases”, said Mohd Soffian bin Abu Bakar, Head of Enforcement, Sabah Wildlife Department.
“It is crucial that the training programme does not end with the delivery of the courses, and we will get the chance to implement some of the tools and techniques we learned with the Wildlife Justice Commission’s support and mentoring”, said Zulkifli Suara, Head of Investigation, Enforcement and Prosecution for the Sabah Forestry Department.
In the next phase, the Wildlife Justice Commission will provide operational intelligence support and mentoring to both Sabah Forestry Department and Sabah Wildlife Department to ensure the effective implementation of the training in tackling cyber-enabled crime.