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Written by: Lindy Taverner and Peter Scott

Intelligence-led policing (ILP) is increasingly promoted, but is it the most effective method of wildlife protection?

ILP originated from the necessity in policing to focus on using informants and surveillance techniques to combat repeat offenders, with close cooperation between police chiefs and intelligence analysts.

Since ILP was adopted into combating wildlife crime in Tanzania, the national decline in elephants has slowed by an estimated two thirds since 2014, compared with the annual averages of the preceding six years. The PAMS Foundation elicited the involvement of the crack National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) in 2014 and it has been a game-changer in every ecosystem they worked.


PAMS also supported the establishment of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism’s Wildlife Crime Unit, which has been operating closely with the NTSCIU. Jointly they have been achieving internationally unparalleled results: four of the biggest ever illegal ivory traders were apprehended; 1,398 poachers and illegal ivory traders were arrested, 84% of those that have completed trial have been convicted; and 65 offenders have been given prison sentences from 16 years to 40 years.

Seized weapons from one operation in western Tanzania ©NTSCIU

David Hubbard, Special Agent in charge of Law Enforcement at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service states, “the intelligence-led multi-agency work of the NTSCIU and MNRT Wildlife Crime Unit is an example of an effective strategy that should be followed across Africa, and potentially in parts of Asia too.”

Success in ILP is not automatic, as it is critically important to follow best practice principles to confirm the integrity of leadership, have as few parties involved as possible and ensure all partners are performance-driven, regularly assessed and held accountable. There are serious risks involved from growing too big too quickly due to successes achieved and the surrounding publicity. Non-specialists with huge budgets are too easily rendered ineffective or corrupted, hence it is prudent to not contribute donor money to projects that are not led by fully competent people of known good integrity.

©Krissie Clark

Despite the risks and dangers of ILP, various parties that have been supporting the intelligence-led strategy financially regard it as the most effective way to protect wildlife. David Bonderman’s Wildcat Foundation is the principal donor of PAMS Foundation and the NTSCIU and were the first major benefactor to finance intelligence-led elephant protection in Tanzania.

“The Wildcat Foundation has supported scores of wildlife projects across the sub-Sahara, and we have consistently found the most effective approach to reducing poaching is intelligence-led enforcement through a well-managed public-private partnership model,” says Rodger Schlickeisen.

Alexandra Kennaugh of the Oak Foundation states, “Intelligence-led enforcement is a cornerstone of Oak Foundation’s funding strategy because we believe it is a critical element in curbing the illegal killing of elephants and rhinos.”

The groups in Africa who are implementing ILP based on best practice principles are leading the way in terms of turning the tide on poaching.

©Krissie Clark

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