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Policy & Regulation

Judge Virginia Mary Kendall: Elephants, could be good for overcoming challenges

Judge Virginia Mary Kendall

January 03 2017

“This entire species could be wiped off of our planet in a matter of years”

What parallels can be drawn between sex trafficking judicial training and wildlife trafficking? “There are so many similarities in the sense of, how money crosses borders, and how the activity occurs”. With over 20 years experience in training prosecutors on both, District Judge for the United States District Court Northern District of Illinois, Judge Virginia Mary Kendall, speaks to Sharon Sayles Belton; Thomson Reuters Vice President of Government Affairs and Community Relations about her work with Lawyers Without Borders, the similarities and crisis on the ground, specifically in Kenya.


Sharon Sayles Belton for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: So you said that there was a crisis in Kenya and that was what lured you to what Lawyers Without Borders was really trying to address. What was the focus of your training? Were you refined to the crisis or were you responding to some broader issues?

Judge Kendall: So the immediate need is the aid in the African communities, countries and Kenya, especially in this training, to be able to enforce their wildlife laws to protect the animals.

And when I say crisis, it was primarily the elephant slaughter that was occurring.

I honestly did not even know how bad it was. I ask people all of the time. I say, “How many elephants do you think are being killed in Africa every year?” And I ask my law clerks and they’ll take a big number. “300”, they’ll say. And I’ll say “higher”, and they’ll say, “1000?”. And I say something like “30,000”, and they cannot believe it.

They all have the same response, “Are there that many elephants in the world?”, and of course the answer is,“Not for long, not for long”.

So the crisis really being that, this entire species could be wiped off of our planet in a matter of years, in a matter of easily our lifetime. And our grandchildren would never ever see one out there in the wild, and that is really crisis level.

So that was the impetus to help, but the training with Lawyers Without Borders is always about aiding them to train themselves, aiding them to give them skills and help that they can use to enforce their own laws. It kind of boils down to recognising that whenever there is a criminal element that comes in on a significantly high level in any country, anywhere, it’s a breakdown of the rule of law.

And if there’s a breakdown of the rule of law, then a country isn’t watching out for it’s own citizens because we have to care for those who are less privileged, socio-economically in a worst state, in a situation that needs protection, and then if we’re not making sure that there’s some stability there, that can’t happen.

And so we look at all of these judicial trainings, all of these trainings, as a way to really enforce stability, to be a partner on an international, global community.

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