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.
Last June 23rd, Mr. ASSOUMOU NDONG Modeste and ladies NGANDOU Charlotte, NTSAME NDONG Mireille were arrested by an Anti Poaching Program patrol in the Guiétsou area in possession of a large quantity of game. Among them were several fully protected species: eleven aquatic chevrotains and a giant pangolin. The prosecution presented the same day by the Provincial Directorate of Waters and Forests, they have been in custody at the Remand Mouila waiting to appear in court.
The following day, during a surveillance mission on the Mandji-Peny road, team officials from the Anti Poaching Program and the Water and Forests office in Mandji again caught a band of poachers in full pursuit: Jean Romain MBAGUI, Olivier Jean MOUANANDI and Guy Roger MOUSSAVOU, head of the gang and prison security guard in Mouila. Aboard their vehicle, a tusk of ivory and several fully protected species including five (5) dwarf crocodiles, two (2) white paw duikers and one (1) giant pangolin.
In the first case decided on June 27th, Jean Romain MBAGUI and Jean Olivier MOUANANDI were sentenced to three months imprisonment and fined of 300.000 FCFA (620 US dollars) and Guy Roger MOUSSAVOU head of the gang and prison security guard in Mouila somehow escaped with only a “fine” of 300.000 FCFA (620 US dollars).
In the second case, after the hearing on July 17th, Mr. Modeste ASSOUMOU NDONG and ladies NGANDOU Charlotte and NTSAME NDONG Mireille were sentenced to 30 days and a 300,000 FCFA (620 US dollars) fine each.
The decisions do not appear to reflect the seriousness of the acts, knowing that we are dealing with fully protected species and according to the Gabonese Forest Code, hunting, possession, transportation and marketing of fully protected species are prohibited and any violation is punishable by 3 to 6 months in prison with fines ranging from 100,000 FCFA to 10 million FCFA (210 – 21000 US dollars).
The involvement and commitment of various authorities including judicial authorities, is necessary if one refers to the government policy of good governance and sustainable management of natural resources. Otherwise, Gabon will become a hub of international wildlife trafficking, such as the current situation shows. Indeed, seizures of several tons of ivory are made in West Africa and in Asia with its origin Gabon, and became one of the main countries concerned today by the ivory trade.
An ivory trafficker posing as a prospector, from Lastourville was arrested in possession of four tusks of ivory cut into 10 pieces (13.5 kilos). Bondouaboka Kevin, a Gabonese national claimed to have found two elephant carcasses in the forest with his friends.
Railway Police officers were alerted on the train by the strong smell that emanated from the bag and during a stop at the station in Ntoum they inspected the bag. Feeling caught, the alleged trafficker then tried to flee but was caught by agents.
Once in Libreville, the defendant was placed in custody. This case shows once again that Libreville is an important transit point for wildlife products, the railway police says that this is not their first arrest of its kind. Generally, ivory is then exported to countries of transit as Togo, Benin, Cameroon and Nigeria and finally found in Asia. Thus tons of ivory from Gabon are entered in these countries each year.
The NGO Conservation Justice was alerted by officials of the Railway Police who had attended a training session on wildlife law recently held in Franceville in collaboration with the Provincial Directorate of Water and Forests of the Haut Ogooué. The PDWF of the Estuary is responsible for monitoring the process in collaboration with the Judicial Police.
At any time of the year, hunting, taking, possession, transportation and marketing of fully protected species is prohibited. Failure to follow these rules may result in imprisonment of up to six months in prison and fines of up to ten million FCFA, the penalty is doubled in case of recidivism or escaping, as was the case here.
Trafficking of wildlife is incrasing sharply in the Woleu-Ntem province. Following the request of the Chief of the Gendarmerie in Mitzic, the Provincial Directorate of Water and Forests Woleu-Ntem and NGO Conservation Justice went to the village Miang (Woleu-Ntem) to investigate a slaughter of two Elephants on the weekend of 30-31 May.
The team consisted of police officers, agents of Water and Forestry and the NGO Conservation Justice. A person arrested by the police beforehand, MENGUE MBA Rodrigue, would lead the combined team at the scene of the slaughter of the elephants. Arrived on the scene before the village, the team found two elephants in an advanced state of decomposition.
According to information received, the elephants were slaughtered and left in place, once the defenses removed. Jean NDONG, the head of the operation had fled. While visiting the village MIANG, MENGUE MBA Rodrigue was apprehended by villagers who alerted the police.
MENGUE MBA Rodrigue was arrested in possession of marijuana and detained by the police. During his interrogation, he involved two other accomplices NDZIGO Pierre and NFOLO Freddy. The latter, already recidivist, was arrested and sentenced in 2011 to several months in prison for a case of poaching of elephants already.
Quoted by Mr. MENGUE and having a vehicle, the Cameroonian sponsor named John NDONG took the tusks and left the province.
The respondent also admitted they took refuge after each operation in the villages and ESSENG MIMBENG in Minvoul.
On June 12, Mr. MENGUE MBA was convicted for possession of marijuana and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with one year suspended sentence and a fine of FCFA 500,000. His knowledge of the location of remains of elephants and the participants were not deemed sufficient to implicate him in illegal hunting. However, the elements seem consistent and those named are mentioned in other cases.
The Haut-Ogooué province has become an important area for trafficking products from fully protected species and especially elephants. For this, large caliber ammunition are required.
Ammunition dealers do not hesitate to provide ammunitions type 458 and 375, though prohibited; to some ivory and elephant poachers. This is the case of Mr Gaël ONKIA Davy who was arrested by the judicial police in the act of marketing these prohibited products (5 bullets type 458 ) the 28th May 2014 in Potos in Franceville. This may seem small, but it is only a small proportion of the amount trafficked each month.
Following a thorough investigation, a joint mission was conducted between the Provincial Directorate of the forest, environment and protection of natural resources, the Judicial Police of the Haut-Ogooué with support from Conservation Justice in order to stop the trafficker.
Mr. Davy ONKIA Gaël, a 38 year old Gabonese national was preparing to sell ammunition to potential poachers. His arrest by the police and the Water and Forests, the result of good cooperation between the two entities will surely have prevented a poaching operation in the area.
At his hearing , Mr. ONKIA refused to denounce his supplier and the buyer. After his detention, he was taken to the court in Franceville before the Prosecutor decided to place him in custody on May 30t.
The respondent faces up to three years in prison, according to Law 15/ 82 of 24 January 1983 laying down the regime of weapons and ammunition in the Gabonese Republic. Note that the sale of weapons and ammunition caliber 375 and 458 is strictly prohibited.
On Wednesday May 7th , a training seminar was held at the National School of Magistracy (ENM ), organized by Conservation Justice under the theme: ” Laws in the service of nature protection and the fight against the illegal exploitation of wildlife and forest resources.” The audience was composed of students magistrates and clerks.
The students were briefed on the different tasks carried out by Conservation Justice and the role it plays in partnership with the Government of Gabon, Law Enforcement and other national and international organizations in the fight against wildlife crime and forest in Gabon. In addition, the current legislation on flora and fauna was reviewed.
Concerning wildlife, the focus was on poaching, linked to the slaughter of elephants for ivory trafficking supply that is rising alarmingly in Gabon and across borders. About the flora, forest classification and requirements for exploitation were discussed.
The speakers highlighted the procedure to follow in case of wildlife crime, noting the importance of rigor in the drafting of the minutes to avoid vitiating the procedure, which would benefit the offender. A screening of the documentary entitled «the looting of African White Gold ” generated enough excitement among students who did not remain unaffected during the presentation which they have paid much attention.
The meeting ended with a series of questions and answers during which a student proposed to open a special chamber Tribunal to resolve disputes relating to fauna and flora. The school’s training counselor also hoped to organize such activities deemed necessary for students at least twice a year