The Fight to Save Gabon's Elephants
Gabon is a country known for its pro-wildlife stance as was most recently highlighted when President Ali Bongo ceremoniously torched the national ivory stockpile in June 2012 as a gesture of defiance towards illegal wildlife exploitation and ivory traffickers. The government reportedly recently banned rifles using high penetration .375 and .458 ammunition in an effort to curb elephant poaching, but it is feared this may have a limited impact since many poachers enter the country from Cameroon.
This small African nation is thought to be home to roughly half of Africa’s forest elephants, perhaps 50,000 altogether, but recent reports indicate that Gabon is also not immune to the poaching frenzy which is affecting so many elephant range states. In Minkebe National Park alone, it is estimated that 11,100 elephants have been killed since 2004. Law enforcement work being supported by Born Free partner, Conservation Justice also indicates that the illegal ivory market is well developed and active nationwide.
Working with the Judicial Police, Conservation Justice has assisted with investigations that have resulted in the arrest this week of a high ranking Gabonese official who has admitted to heading one of the country’s largest ivory trafficking networks. The arrest of Athanase Edou Mebiame is a big break-through in terms of illegal wildlife trade enforcement, as are the arrest of a further 13 ivory traffickers in the course of a 3-week sting operation. High powered rifles and ammunition as well as 24 elephant tusks were also seized and all eyes are now on the Gabon courts who will be expected to pass down the harshest sentence on the accused.
Conservation Justice assists the government of Gabon through mounting investigations, planning operations and raising awareness through the media on issues related to wildlife crime.
Meanwhile in Bangkok, delegates for the next major CITES meeting are arriving to discuss the issues surrounding the survival of many species, including elephants, such as a decision making mechanism to guide future sales of ivory. To many this is an unthinkable scenario - that in the midst of this poaching onslaught, the world would be entertaining the mere thought of sales of ivory. Also discussed will be the African Elephant Action Plan, a blueprint to counter the multiple threats faced by Africa's elephants and agreed by all African countries with elephants.
Find out more about the African Elephant Action Plan