An important part of combating wildlife crime is establishing strong community ties and helping wildlife officers in the human/wildlife conflict that they encounter every day. Part of LWOB’s wildlife trafficking programming focuses on wildlife officers and their role in supporting the concerns and safety of communities that border wildlife parks.
The Wildlife Crime Mock Trial Competition (WICRI) is an active program with the aim to enhance prosecutorial and judicial capacity in countering wildlife trafficking in Kenya and Tanzania through the professional development of prosecutors, magistrates and judges. This goal was achieved through a three-stage series of progressive trial advocacy trainings during the first year, and a series of mock trial competitions in the second year.
A total of 222 Kenyan and Tanzanians were trained at the trial advocacy trainings. Over 100 prosecutors, private attorneys, magistrates and judges attended the first stage of training that covered an introduction to local and international wildlife crime laws as well as fundamental trial advocacy skills. LWOB invited the top 50 participants from each country to participate in the second stage of training, which covered more advanced topics such as digital and forensic evidence, expert witnesses, and plea bargaining. The final stage of training introduced the top 35 participants to the most advanced topics of the series, including corruption, money laundering, customs issues, and written submissions. As a result of the trainings, 96% of the participants reported improved knowledge of prosecuting complex wildlife crime cases.
In early 2020, LWOB held its domestic mock trial scrimmages in Kenya that consisted of two scrimmages and two training days. A total of 28 attorneys attended the scrimmage and were trained on the status of the international fight against the ivory trade, local laws dealing with anti-corruption, bribery, and fraud, as well as trial advocacy skills on impeaching a witness and learning how to flip a witness. The training also featured review sessions on objections, export and import laws, written submissions, and presentation skills. WICRI provided 24 days of training for 388 participants. Following the final training in Kenya, LWOB started logistical preparations for the mock trial competitions in both countries. However, COVID-19 interrupted preparations and the mock trial competitions were postponed. In the interim, LWOB is researching the impact of the virus on prosecuting wildlife crimes and researching remote learning technologies in case travel is not possible for an extended period of time.