Chasing Down Ivory Traders in Gabon

Seized ivory, April 2014 (c) Conservation Justice

In recent months the Gabonese government has taken clear steps to address the illegal wildlife trade. The government burnt its entire ivory stockpile in a public ceremony in June 2012, co-hosted a UN General Assembly event on Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking in September 2013 and signed the February 2014 London declaration on illegal wildlife trade.

Addressing corruption within government ranks and conducting effective seizure operations are key indicators of Gabon’s ongoing commitment to wiping out the scourge of illegal wildlife trade within the country’s borders.

On 2nd April a government official of the General Directorate of Documentation and Information was involved in an accident while driving a government vehicle. The official was hospitalized and an investigation of the scene of the accident revealed poached wildlife and ivory tusks inside the vehicle. The official will be prosecuted for ivory trafficking, abuse of power and road offenses.

Two days later a Gabonese man was arrested at an Mvengué international airport in southeast Gabon with seven ivory tusks weighing over 50kg. The accused was a repeat offender, having been arrested in August 2013 attempting to smuggle ivory through the same airport but released due to lack of evidence. Following the arrest, another two suspects were also implicated. The three suspects face up to six months in prison and ten million CFA Francs (~£12,500) in fines, plus damages to the Forestry Commission. (UPDATE: see here for a report of the sentencing)

This last operation was the result of collaboration between multiple government agencies – the General Directorate of Documentation and Immigration, the Judicial Police and the Forestry Commission. This collaboration was supported by Conservation Justice, a non governmental organisation applying the innovative approach to wildlife law enforcement championed by LAGA in Cameroon and being replicated across central and western Africa. Born Free congratulates the government of Gabon on their successes and hopes other governments in the region as well as those outside of Africa, seeing evidence of not just severe elephant poaching but also of the means to address it, will institute and support similar collaborations.

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