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President Mokgweetsi Masisi has said the utilisation of the Botswana Wildlife Forensic Laboratory through its advanced scientific techniques will be harnessed to investigate wildlife crimes such as poaching and trafficking.
Botswana Wildlife Forensic Laboratory was established through a strategic partnership between the Government of Botswana, Virginia Tech which is a Public Land Grant Research University in Virginia, local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and the Centre for African Resources, Animals, Communities and Land Use (CARACAL).
The construction of the laboratory will be funded by the United States Department of State – Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, with the grant amounting to US$ 2,7 million which is equivalent to Thirty-Seven Million Pula (P37, Million). The grant was awarded to Virginia Tech University and by extension, CARACAL. The laboratory will scientifically investigate and prosecute wildlife trafficking crimes, through inter-agency law enforcement support.
According to Masisi, the laboratory will train a multi- agency elite team of wildlife crime investigators and administration of justice officers to enhance their capability in handling related cases.
According to the president, Botswana is identified as a leader in conservation in the region therefore there is a significant need to address emergent gaps in the country’s ability to fight wildlife crime. He noted that the facility will become a critical hub in their collective efforts to protect the precious natural resources bequeathed to them.
He stated that in utilising the wildlife forensic laboratory, advanced scientific techniques will be harnessed to investigate wildlife crimes such as poaching and trafficking. According to Masisi, through the project skilled scientists and dedicated teams will investigate and analyse biological evidence from meat and other by-products, with the intention to establish the origin of these illicit materials.
He noted that the unyielding threats to wildlife in Botswana and their habitat call for innovative and proactive measures. Masisi has indicated that given Botswana’s critical role in Southern Africa, strengthening capacity to counter wildlife poaching is identified as a priority for both the government and the international community.
“Therefore, the construction of the wildlife forensic laboratory demonstrates our unwavering commitment to conservation, justice, and our shared future. Once completed, the facility will be the embodiment of our dedication to ensuring that we preserve the natural resources that are integral to our ecosystem services,” he said.
For his part, US Ambassador to Botswana Van Vranken said wildlife trafficking generates billions of dollars in illicit revenue each year, undermines security, threatens the rule of law, spread diseases and destabilises communities. He noted that the project will therefore help Botswana strengthen its forensic science capabilities to better investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes, serving as a centre for excellence in Southern Africa.
In his remarks, Virginia Tech President Professor Timothy Sands said they aim to support Botswana in its vision role in Africa as a leader of conservation, democracy and sustainable development.
“We are excited to work with the innovative country with the clear vision to the future and has potential for impact, Virginia Tech is set to work with Botswana for better opportunities for the future,” he said.