INTERPOL in 2014 launched a coordinated campaign to arrest a number of criminals involved in wildlife crimes. One of these criminals, a Rajkumar Praja, involved in rhino poaching, has been apprehended in Malaysia.
Rajkumar Praja, the ringleader of a rhino poaching network in Nepal, is wanted to serve a 15-year sentence for rhino poaching and trading internationally in rhino horns. Nepali authorities requested a Red Notice, or international wanted persons alert, for the 31-year-old after he fled the country – INTERPOL
One of the reasons wildlife crime networks have shown a lot of longevity, is the typically lower apprehension risks, and lower sentences handed out, for wildlife crimes. This is in contrast to the treatment of criminals engaged in say, drug-trafficking. In economic parlance, it is unlikely that we have been operating at ‘optimal deterrence’.
Moves like this to increases apprehension risks will hopefully yield positive outcomes. Nonetheless, there are still two issues that make law enforcement a challenge. The first is that wildlife crime does not have a lot of barriers to enter. The Chen case in Xiamen, in 2011, showed this for ivory. Chen went from having absolutely no contacts in Africa, to a conspiracy that shipped 7 tons of ivory back to China. These shipments occurred over a mere 6 months. This was on the back of a single visit to Africa as a tourist. Wildlife crime does not seem to need to large, organised criminal organisations we see with drug cartels. In effect, wildlife criminals are easily replaced in the industry.
The second is that poachers may not react to increase enforcement by reducing crime. They can respond by coming back with bigger guns and more lethal force. There’s a good reason why rangers are getting killed trying to protect African wildlife. The criminals have armed themselves with more weapons and have little reluctance to use them.