Educating Justice System Officials On The Importance of Prosecuting Environmental Crime

Roberto Oliva, Executive Director of ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity

Roberto Oliva, Executive Director of ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity

National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, West Virginia  --- Roberto Oliva, forester, lawyer and executive director of ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity ( ), has learned how to work with courts to prioritize the enforcement of environmental rules:  educate them about the importance of protecting wildlife and the environment and how its in everyone’s best interest to protect natural resources.  “When officials in the justice system realize how important it is it to protect our natural resources, they prioritize environmental cases” Oliva said.

Oliva explained his experience to 42 African conservation officials from 17 African countries attending the International Conservation Chiefs Academy.  The goal of the ICCA is to build relationships by strengthening global law enforcement relationships to help them fight illegal wildlife trafficking that is decimating wildlife and breeding organized crime that can destabilize governments.

In the 1980s and 1990s when Oliva and environmental lawyers filed cases, the cases were often dismissed by judges who viewed environmental crimes as merely “petty crimes”.  Judges were not very friendly toward environmental cases and often scolded the prosecuting attorneys or allowed plea bargains with lesser penalties.  Violators were then released and they continued to commit more wildlife, environmental and natural resource crimes.

Illegal logging was rampant in the Philippines during the 1990s, as the country was a major exporter of logs without oversight of local environmental departments.   Eventually citizens realized that forests were beginning to disappear and began to experience the adverse impacts of deforestation.  In 1992, groups including national and local governments, churches, police, women’s organizations, businesses and others came together to call for environmental protection from at the grassroots level.

They began formal training of prosecutors and judges on environmental laws and brought the courts to the jungles to see the damages being done.

In another turning point, the Supreme Court in the Philippines ruled that a balanced and healthy environment is the right of all people, including those yet unborn.  In 2009 environmental courts were established and special prosecutors now focus on environmental crimes.        

Additionally, new rules now allow citizens to file cases for environmental problems, and courts can issue a temporary restraining order to stop any further damage until the case is decided.

“We have lost so much in nature, but if man is the problem, man should also be part of the solution,” Oliva said.   “Prosecutors are now environmental champions.”

Natercio Ngovene

Natercio Ngovene

Natercio Ngovene, law enforcement coordinator at Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique, reaffirmed Oliva’s experience of taking prosecutors and judges to see the damages to the environment.

“Judges and prosecutors didn’t see the poaching that was going on as an important problem, but it was destroying the environment,” Ngovene said.  “I took a judge out to see the slaughter of animals, and afterwards she instructed me that when we had a poaching case to be sure to bring it to her.”

The opportunity to make change, said Oliva, is up to average people to begin asking for change.

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity includes the countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malasia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.  The mission of the ASEAN Center is to effectively facilitate regional cooperation and deliver capacity building services to Asian Countries in conserving biodiversity.

The International Conservation Chief’s Academy (ICCA), is jointly coordinated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs, and the and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

Murdered Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Leader from Tanzania Honored at National Geographic HQ

Washington, D.C. -- The murder of internationally recognized wildlife protector Wayne Lotter will not deter efforts to combat poaching in Tanzania, co-workers of Lotter’s said in accepting an award in Lotter’s honor during a banquet Sept. 12 at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the second year National Geographic has hosted the banquet honoring those involved in international wildlife trafficking enforcement.

 l to r - Randy Stark, Executive Director, NACLEC; Ed Grace, USFWS Chief Office of Law Enforcement: John Mwakalenga, Tanzania Police Force; Krissie Clark, Co-Founder PAMS; Kiza Baraga,  Wildlife Officer, Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism; Robert Mande, Assistant Director of Anti-Poaching, Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Lotter, 51, was killed August 16 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, while riding in a taxi from the airport to a hotel. The taxi was stopped by another vehicle, two men got out, opened the taxi door and one of them shot Lotter at close range.

Krissie Clark (click through for video)

Krissie Clark (click through for video)

Krissie Clark, who co-founded the PAMS Foundation along with Lotter and Ally Namangaya in 2009, said the foundation would continue the work Lotter helped start. Wildlife law enforcement officials from Tanzania, who accepted the award with Clark, said their efforts would continue.

The Tanzanians accepting the award along with Krissie Clark were Robert Mande, assistant director of Anti-Poaching at the Wildlife Division in Dar es Salaam, Kiza Baraga, assistant coordinator in the country’s Wildlife and Forest Crimes Taskforce, and John Mwakalenga, a criminal investigations officer with the Tanzania Police Force.

The Tanzanians were among 42 wildlife enforcement officials from 17 African countries attending the banquet who were training at the National Conservation Training Center at Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and 32 state and federal conservation enforcement conservation law enforcement executives from 30 states who were training with them. This is the second year officials from African countries have trained in the U.S. at the International Conservation Chiefs Academy at the National Conservation Training Center.

Robert Mande, who knew and worked with Lotter since 2009, saw Lotter as a motivator who was flexible and always interested in trying to improve their operations.

Robert Mande (click through for video)

Robert Mande (click through for video)

“I’m taking his loss as a big challenge,” said Mande.  “It’s like when you are in the army fighting a war and you lose your commander: you don’t stop fighting, you continue but the loss of the person will still be there.  It will motivate us to honor him by fighting harder and try to fill the gap.”

Mande said that Lotter was special because he was willing to think outside of the box.  He worked with the military, police, and national intelligence on serious crime investigation units and supported the National and Transnational Serious Crime Investigation Unit established by the President of Tanzania. "The Tanzanian government, under the presidency of his excellency Dr. J.P. Magufuli, upholds and appreciates the role of private partnerships. Therefore, PAMS enjoyed the public private partnership (PPP) in United Republic of Tanzania which made possible conducting joint operations sponsored by PAMS," stated Mande.

 “I kept in contact with Wayne because we have the same philosophy; that to be effective in combatting illegal wildlife trafficking, we have to work with villages outside of the protected national parks, game reserves and conservation areas,” said Mande.

“Wayne devoted his life to Africa’s Wildlife, from working as a ranger in his native South Africa as a young man to leading the charge to combat poaching in Tanzania,” according to the PAMS Foundation Facebook Page.  “Wayne believed communities were the best protectors of the continent’s animals. Through his work with PAMS he helped train thousands of village game scouts in every corner of the country.”

Lotter’s work developing an intelligence-based approach to preventing poaching helped reverse the high rates of poaching facing Tanzania, according to the foundation.

“He died bravely fighting for the cause he was most passionate about,” the PAMS Foundation team wrote.

Lotter is survived by his wife Inge, daughters Cara Jayne and Tamsin, and parents Vera and Charles Lotter.

Lotter’s murder is still under investigation.

Eyewitness to Leadership: A Long Career in South Africa that Witnessed Profound Change


Kobus de Wet, National Head of Environmental Crime Investigation in South African National Parks, has had a career in law enforcement that has seen major changes in his country and in wildlife protection.

He joined the police in 1978 and was still serving in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected as the country’s first black president in the first all-race elections. The African National Congress, which had been banned for 30 years, then came to power.

De Wet said that without Mandela’s philosophy of peaceful reconciliation, this could have been a bloody transition, but it was peaceful.

“It is my opinion that Mandela was a God-given president. He was the father of the new South Africa,” De Wet said. “He brought peace and harmony.”

During this change in government De Wet said his job as a police officer didn’t change. “I was in the police. You serve the government. It doesn’t matter which one,” he said.

What many Americans know about South Africa probably comes from the film “Invictus,” directed by Clint Eastwood, that tells the story of a rugby tournament in 1995 in South Africa and the role Mandela, who was newly elected, played in getting black South Africans to join white South Africans to support the country’s team. The underdog South African team, the Springboks, won in overtime.

“Hollywood basically got it right”, de Wet said, although he didn’t get to watch the game. At the time he was in Mozambique overseeing the destruction of weapons that had been used in crimes in South Africa.

De Wet held several jobs in his 22 years with the police, working in the detective branch, stock theft unit, crime intelligence, firearm unit and organized crime unit.

Conservation career

In 2000 he left the police and joined an anti-poaching unit in Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa. This is the largest of the country’s 22 parks, at over 7,500 square miles.

During his first years there the poaching they dealt with was mostly setting snares for smaller animals for meat, but that changed abruptly in 2009 when poachers began targeting rhinos for commercial sales of their horns.

Poachers can enter the park through a border with Mozambique. The poaching peaked in 2014 with 827 rhinos killed.

Last year and so far this year the number of rhinos killed has declined somewhat in Kruger through targeted enforcement actions.   

Unfortunately, poachers are mobile and if enforcement is increased in one area they will move their activities to another.


A positive development for rhinos is that some people are allowing them to live on private land, at considerable expense. Some of the private landowners are experimenting with cutting off the rhinos’ horns to take away the incentive to poachers for killing them. De Wit said that would not be practical for large parks like Kruger where there are many rhinos.

Another issue in protecting wildlife is the “criminalization” of villages near parks, where poachers are seen as local heroes because they bring money to the community.

There is a saying “We will get rich without working, but we will die without illness,” he said. “Getting rich without working” refers to the money to be made from poaching, and “dying without illness” refers to the risk of sudden death that comes with poaching, including being killed by animals.

The solution lies partly in educating locals on the value of parks and wildlife, but also tangible benefits from living near a park, like jobs, he said. Kruger has 2,500 employees.

In 2013 he was promoted to the head of Environmental Crime Investigation for South African National Parks. Despite the challenges, he sees the future of African wildlife as “brilliant”.

Exercising Leadership on Problems With No Easy Answers and Colliding Perspectives

Brad Hovinga

Brad Hovinga

For Brad Hovinga, being a conservation warden was sort of the family business. His father was a warden in Utah who frequently took him along as a boy. “I grew up in the passenger seat of his warden truck,” he said.

His brother is also a Utah warden.

Brad has strayed from this pattern slightly. He is also in conservation law enforcement, but his career has been in Wyoming. He was a field warden for 23 years, serving in Big Piney in western Wyoming for 13 years and Lander for seven more.

He is a published author, with two stories in the fourth edition of “Wildlife Crime: Stories from Wyoming’s Wildlife Officers”. Both his stories involved the killing and wasting of a moose by individuals who did not have moose permits.  They were caught by Hovinga and prosecuted.

Two years ago, he became the Jackson Regional Wildlife Supervisor. Now he not only supervises field wardens, but also wildlife biologists, as well as education and office staff.

Hovinga said he loved being a field warden, but it was time for him to take on more responsibility.

hovinga 2.jpg

“It just hit a point in my career where I could contribute more to the mission.  I saw the potential to have a greater impact on things that really matter, so I decided to take on more challenge.”

The new job brought him to one of the most beautiful spots in the world with the Teton Range in his backyard, but also one of the most expensive areas to live.  He couldn’t afford to live there if the department didn’t rent a house for him, he said.

Development in the area poses a challenge for wildlife management. People attracted to the area by its natural beauty like being able to see elk out their front windows, but farmers who own the nearby fields where the elk graze are not as happy.  Managing human/wildlife conflict is one of the challenges he faces daily.

Hunting is not usually allowed in national parks, but elk hunting is allowed in Grand Teton National Park under an agreement with the state.  “In order to manage our elk we need to harvest elk.  Without that ability, we would not be able to control elk numbers,” Hovinga said. In 1950, when the park was expanded, this was done with the condition that elk would be co-managed by the state and National Park Service. 

On a daily basis, Hovinga works at the intersection of colliding interests, values and mindsets regarding wildlife, and best how to management it in the public interest.  For example, his department cooperates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operating a winter elk feeding ground at Jackson. This is a compromise that does increase the possibility of disease, but it keeps the elk away from agricultural areas and allows the department to keep elk numbers at level the public wants, he said.  Statewide there are about 22 winter elk feeding grounds.

He is heavily in involved in managing grizzly bears and wolves, two species that always generate attention. Wolves were recently delisted and are now managed by the state.  “We’ll have the first wolf hunting season in several years this fall,” he said.

“As society changes, we find ourselves with many adaptive challenges in carrying out our public trust responsibilities concerning wildlife in Wyoming.  My experience at the academy helps me approach these types of problems, problems with no easy answers that requires everyone to learn their way into a solution.”

Colonel Sow and the Sultan

Colonel Mamadou Bhoye Sow of Guinea

Colonel Mamadou Bhoye Sow of Guinea

Colonel Mamadou Bhoye Sow of Guinea was a warden in Badiar-Niokolo Transfrontier Park, which is partly in Guinea and partly in Senegal, when he learned that preparations were being made for a visit from a Sultan from Arab Emirates, a great honor. It was 1996 and the park was newly formed. The Sultan was apparently a friend of the president of Guinea, Sow explained with the help of a French interpreter.

The Sultan arrived with an escort of vehicles that included a car full of local dignitaries from Guinea, including the governor of the region.  There was also a car full of commandos – body guards of the Sultan.

Sow was invited to ride in the Sultan’s vehicle. They had somewhat of a language barrier because the Sultan and his escort spoke Arabic and he spoke French. He was alarmed to see that the back of the Sultan’s vehicle was filled with firearms, and as they approached the park boundary it became clear that it was the Sultan’s intention to hunt in the park, which was illegal.

Through an interpreter Sow explained that hunting was not allowed in the park, and that he could show the Sultan other places to hunt.  The regional governor and other dignitaries said Sow needed to make an exception for the Sultan because he was important and they would all lose their jobs if he didn’t get to hunt in the park. He said: “I would rather have them shoot me than any animal in the park.” Sow said he would never accept the shame of having someone shoot an animal while he was there. He also explained that other rangers in the park would come running at the sound of a shot, and that any hunting would violate an agreement they had with their colleagues in Senegal who were joint-managers of the park.

The Sultan and his group got back into his car and sped off from the direction they came from, followed by the local dignitaries and the car full of guards.

Sow was left standing alone in the bush with no vehicle and no radio. This was before the time of cell phones. He started walking. He knew they had planned to camp on a hill a few miles into the park. When he got to the hill, he found a radio and called some of the other rangers, telling them to bring up a truck. He also found a great amount of food had been prepared for the Sultan, including the local dish mechoui, a roasted lamb.  Sow and the other rangers decided it shouldn’t go to waste. “We had a feast,” he said.

As for being fired, the governor was replaced within a month. Sow stayed on as the head warden and went on to a successful career. He is currently the Deputy Director General of the Office of Guinea Parks and Reserves.