Conservation Justice aims to protect elephants in addition to other threatened species in Gabon from illegal hunting and wildlife trade by increasing the level of wildlife law enforcement nationwide and deterring potential elephant poachers and ivory traders from conducting these activities. Conservation Justice collaborates closely with LAGA (www.laga-enforcement.org) and follows its methods.
A load of Okoumé was intercepted in Nkoltang by the local Water and Forests outpost on August 8th. It was 8m³ of Okoumé that Mr Salif Camara and his accomplices were carrying on a truck, presumably to be sold.
It was after questioning by the Nkoltang Mobile Brigade that Mr NDONG EYI Faustina was identified as the owner of the timber. After being questioned by the Provincial Office of the Estuary, Mr Ndong Eyi revealed in turn to have acquired the wood from a Mr Toufick known by services the Provincial Office.
Mr Ndong Eyi has no license or other proof for the transport of the wood and was judged guilty for opperating without a license and ordered to pay a fine of 150,000 CFA francs.
This is another illegal logger who is relaxed and ordered to pay a ridiculously low fine compared to his crime, nor the huge losses that the state suffers due to such fraudulent practices.
Wood is one of the most important and valuable resources of the country and, like the oil sector that got a new code for better regulation and protection, green gold should equally benefit from a strict legal framework which must be strictly adhered to by all.
The elephant which was found stuck in the mud in a forest concession since last Thursday finally succumbed.
Since Thursday, August 14, 2014, Mr. Paulin, Head of Villagers Environment Support at the CEB office had alerted the Provincial Directorate of Water and Forests Ogooué- Lolo and that of the Haut-Ogooué about a young elephant stuck in the mud in their forest concession. The elephant was moved by the CEB to a small creek just off to allow it to rehydrate and fruits were given to him.
At first it was thought that his left rear leg was seriously infected and that it was how he had found himself stuck in the mud and into the creek. But after examination by veterinarians from the Lékédi Park (Sodepal), it was revealed that the elephant was already in poor health in the forest, even before it was discovered stuck in the mud by the staff of the CEB.
Despite all efforts for five days by the CEB, the DP of Water and Forests of Haut-Ogooué led by Mr Lucien Massoukou and Conservation Justice, the elephant died, probably from fatigue.
A month after being arrested by the railway police in possession of Ntoum 4 tusks of ivory totaling 14 kg, Mr Kevin Bondouaboka was tried and convicted of possession and marketing of elephant ivory, a fully protected species. He gets a one (1) month suspended prison sentence and payment of FCFA 200,000 for damages.
Although weak, the legislation still provides a penalty of up to six months in prison and fines of up to ten million FCFA. Mr. Bondouaboka who tried to escape would have to undergo a much harsher sentence, a reason probably why the prosecution appealed. So he remains in custody and will be judged on appeal.
This case demonstrates once again the lack of effect of the Gabonese law relates to a phenomenon yet to enormous impact both economically and environmentally. For comparison, Mr Bondouaboka have copped a maximum of 5 years in Congo, Cameroon 3 years, 1 year in CAR, 5 years in Benin, Burkina 5 years and 2 years in Togo.
When you know that the original ivory seizures of Gabon are conducted around the world, it seems necessary to take a firm stand against the ivory trade. For example a seizure of 30 kg of ivory that would Gabon was conducted last week in Benin. In Togo, it is 3.8 tons seized in February, mainly from Gabon.
Police in Benin arrested three people for illegal possession of over 30 kg of ivory on August 12, 2014. TwoGuineans and 1 Beninese were arrested in a Cotonou hotel by the Judicial Police working in collaboration with the Beninese Forestry and Wildlife Department and Interpol, in possession of four elephant tusks found. The 30 kg ivory loot suspected to be coming from Gabon, investigation revealed, is part of a bigger booty of over 300 kg that is alleged to be held by an ivory trafficking network that spans across West and Central Africa.
All three are suspected to be members of this network that obtains its ivory principally from the Central African sub-region. A conservation group known as Conservation Justice, which is presently working with Beninese authorities provided valuable assistance that led to the unmasking and arrest of the suspected traffickers. Luc Mathot, who runs Conservation Jutice that has a wildlife law enforcement support project in Gabon and who is equally assisting wildlife officials in Benin to replicate the same wildlife law enforcement model there says “The products that were hidden in bags are from Nigeria but coming from Central Africa mainly Gabon “. The wildlife law enforcement model that is rapidly spreading through Africa under the network name “EAGLE” was originally started in 2003 when the Government of Cameroon signed a convention with a wildlife law enforcement body, The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA), to assist in the application of its wildlife laws.
Sources close to the operation in Benin say, it is only a small fraction of the stock held by the criminal gang, which has been operating from the Nigerian megalopolis, Lagos that hosts the biggest traffickers in West Africa and Central Africa. Luc Mathot says “The accused are major traffickers who work in a network in the West African sub-region”.
Ivory coming in mainly from Central Africa and especially from Gabon and Congo passes through Cameroon, and Nigeria which are the main transit countries en route to Benin, Togo and finally Asia where they command huge prices. This may explain why the EAGLE network that is expected to assist governments in effective wildlife law enforcement has been set up in these countries except Nigeria where contacts for such a project are well underway.
The three people were interrogated and brought in front of the Prosecutor of the Cotonou’s Court of First Instance and the operation by the Beninese authorities is seen as part of growing strategy to apply wildlife laws in curbing rising crimes against wildlife, specifically, the elephant in Africa. Conservationists say the extent of the damage is serious and most countries in the West African sub-region have seen their elephant populations wiped out. The situation has been rendered dangerous by the involvement of drug smuggling gangs and terrorists groups in the illicit ivory trade.
The main reason for this situation is the spiraling demand for ivory by the Asian newly rich and this has attracted huge profits for criminal syndicates and terrorists groups that are taking advantage of the weak wildlife law enforcement and penalties, in some countries, against wildlife criminals. In Gabon for example, the law provides for six months in prison for trafficking in ivory which many consider as too weak. Benin may just be at the beginning of its own wildlife law enforcement project but it has an even stiffer law, providing for a 5-year sentence to those convicted of wildlife criminality. Many see this is as a more commensurate punishment to a crime that is causing untold damage to the African elephant.
In any case, Benin still has some viable populations of elephants that need protection. Northern Benin has the largest elephant population in West Africa and needs a huge protection effort to avoid it becoming the target for trafficking networks. Benin may have taken a very important step in protecting its wildlife species, joining a framework of projects in what is fast becoming a truly regional effort in wildlife law enforcement. Benin has shown its commitment in this direction and the Beninese authorities have requested for cooperation with other countries to jointly fight ivory trafficking.