Good News from Central Africa's Courts

Seized ivory (c) PALF

Central Africa is a region beleaguered by elephant poaching to the point where a recent estimate placed losses at 62% over a 10 year period. However, there are increasing rays of hope coming from the region and this week sees two good news stories coming out of the central African courts, courtesy of tireless work by Born Free’s law enforcement partners.

The first one is a follow up to events we reported on two months ago, involving Ngondjo 'Pepito' Ghislain, a notorious ivory dealer operating in and around Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo.

Pepito had been on the radar for many years but protected as he was, seemed immune from the law. This all changed in May this year when he was finally arrested. Now, PALF (Project for the Application of Law for Fauna) report that Pepito has been sentenced to the maximum penalty under Congo's wildlife legislation - five years in prison. He will serve his term in Brazzaville Prison, many miles from where he successfully peddled his influence. Here’s an excerpt from the gripping PALF press release:

“Pepito was visibly angry and shocked by the surprise testimony by his own accomplices  against him.  During a break in front of the police, supporters of Pepito present at the  hearing boldly made death threats against one of the men who testified against Pepito.   Pepito’s attorney went so far as to argue explosively that elephants are not integrally  protected species, which is blatantly untrue.  Furthermore, she successfully invoked loud  cheers from the overflowing crowds at the courthouse when she lambasted the presence of  African Parks, or “foreigners”, who partner with the Congolese government in the  management of Odzala-Kokoua National Park.   Nevertheless, despite the fact Pepito was  armed with local popularity and influential connections, the Ewo court rose up against local  pressure to correctly apply the Wildlife Code and give Pepito the maximum prison sentence”. 

Secondly, from Cameroon, LAGA (Last Great Ape Organisation) report two year sentences for two ivory traffickers, as well as a landmark decision for an ivory case to be heard by the Special Criminal Court. This is the first time this court, established to aid prosecution of Cameroon’s corrupt officials, will hear a wildlife case and is a move expected to significantly raise the profile of wildlife crime prosecution in the country.

These significant developments send out a strong message to ivory traffickers and their collaborators operating in the region and indeed throughout Africa - that governments and their judiciaries are taking their responsibilities seriously and punishing the orchestrators of mass elephant poaching.  

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