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.
Six points of ivories, a panther skin and skin golden cat had been seized by the judicial police in Oyem Thursday, November 20th. Two traffickers, MBA OWONO Sylvain and Jerome MEZUI Mendong, Gabonese nationals, were caugth in the act of transportation, illegal detention and attempt of marketing trophies from fully protected species and 458 caliber bullets, though prohibited by law.
They had been in custody and presented to the prosecutor for their crimes. Curiously, the concerned were found not guilty by the judges for offenses, and one of them was sentenced only to one month in prison for illegal detention of 458 caliber bullets.
Gabon has embarked on an ambitious development program based on the valuation and sustainable management of natural resources. In this context, national parks and natural heritage (including wildlife) deserve real protection with the support of various state services.
These court decisions unfortunately are contrary to government policy and the fight against environmental crime. The application of the law remains a necessary condition for good governance and only judges may well deter offenders with independence and transparency. The work of police and prosecutors may be undermined by the decisions of the judges, which inevitably demotivate the efforts made.
Sunday, November 30th, nearly 80 kg of shark fins were seized in Port Gentil by the Judicial Police. Two Nigerian nationals, Abel ABAKA Joseph and WONIOWEI Igbosu were arrested and held in custody before being presented to the prosecutor’s office to answer for their actions.
Fishery resources are the responsibility of the Directorate General for Fisheries and Aquaculture, which must monitor this type of case to verify the origin and destination of the products sold illegally or not.
The exploitation of sharks is not prohibited but requires authorization and payment of relevant fees as any other type of fishing. However, given the pressure on sharks, the permissions for the fin trade are no longer produced by the administration. The fin trade is stopped but that does not stop trafficking to continue.
The fins represent only 3% of the weight of sharks, but the illegal trade is focused on these high-valued parts that are intended for the preparation of soups in Asia. Many fishermen reject live sharks to the seas after cutting off their fins. They inevitably die for a huge waste.
Furthermore, the illegal trade of shark fins has created enormous pressure on fragile shark populations. Some estimates consider that over 100 million sharks are killed annually in the world. In recent decades, many shark species involved in the trafficking of shark fins and are endangered have already lost more than 50% of their population, or even 98% for some species!
The role of sharks in the oceans is nevertheless capital by regulating certain species. The historic decision of the Head of State to create marine parks and to protect and sustain manage fisheries resources was praised by the international community at the last summit in Australia, which has just ended. Gabon is still full of exceptional fauna and flora but is also a target for all kinds of traffickers. The fight against trafficking of natural resources including fisheries resources should be intensified. This starts with a strengthening of the legislation.
Six tusks of ivories, a panther skin and a golden cat skin were seized by the police, judicial and ministerial authorities, along with the NGO Conservation Justice in the city of Oyem Thursday November 20.
Two poachers of Gabonese nationality, were arrested for transportation, illegal detention trophies strictly protected species and 458 caliber bullets yet prohibited by law. Indeed, gentlemen MBA OWONO Sylvain and MEZUI Mendong Jean-Marie went to the hotel IYA where they intended to sell their loot.
When asked by members of the Judicial Police in Oyem, they confessed to the charges against them, revealing the fact that they had already sold ivory. These two are not at their first offense and are not small hunters.
They were put in custody and will be presented on Monday in court to meet the facts applicable to them. The new PJ antenna leader in Oyem will not have taken too much time to signal his determination in the fight against poaching, an attitude to congratulate, but also to sustain.
This is the second time in less than a week that we reported cases of large-scale poaching and trafficking in the country. Two cases tarnishing the congratulations received the World Parks Congress held in Australia and the Green Ribbon Political Award which was awarded to the head of state by the English Parliament.
Protecting the environment is to protect wildlife and especially the endangered species. In Gabon, this requires a tightening of sanctions under the Forestry Code (maximum 6 months imprisonment), but also a strict application.
Last Saturday, an ivory dealer named Daouda Tounkara Sambou was arrested in Libreville in possession of 33 kilograms of ivory by the Intervention Brigade of the Judicial Police, assisted by Conservation Justice. Residing in Koulamoutou, he had traveled to Libreville in order to sell them on the black market.
Arrested in Louis with a bag containing 8 tusks of ivory cut into 12 pieces, Mr. Tounkara Sambou said he did not know the contents of the bag and it was not for him, yet after he confessed to planning to sell them.
Koulamoutou is now known as another hub for poaching in Gabon. The intention to sell ivory in Libreville also shows that there is indeed a network, if a not a market for the sale of ivory in Libreville.
Also worrying is the fact that Mr. Tounkara Sambou was able to go from Koulamoutou to Libreville without being intercepted earlier by ground controls. The case was forwarded to Libreville prosecutor yesterday morning, according to the Forest Code in Gabon, he risks up to 6 months imprisonment, a ridiculous sentence when we know that the value of the ivory is estimated at more than 3 million FCFA (6000 US Dollars) and that it is only a tiny fraction of the annual revenue of the trafficker.
According to an officer of the intervention brigade of the police, “This arrest would not have been possible without the collaboration of Conservation Justice, we took him in the act with the intent to sell the ivory. He must now be severely punished as an example for others who try to do the same.”
The police chief also relayed congratulations for the arrest while expressing his desire to see Mr Tounkara Sambou received a hard sentence. “Poaching is a growing phenomenon despite arrests; we must strike hard to get meaningful results.”
The case was referred to the trial court in Libreville, the trial will be held Monday, November 24th.
The sale of trophies coming from fully protected species, though prohibited by lawcontinues togrowthroughoutthe Gaboneseterritorydespitearrests.In fact, afterthe recent arrest offourpanther skins traffickers inMitzic,it isnowinMakokou, the Ogooué-Ivindo province,thatlastWednesdayanothertrafficker wascaughtin the act ofselling leopard skin.
Mr.ConstantNGANDABAKA, a Gabonesecitizen,arrestedby the policein Makokou, admitted he shotthe pantherlastAugustand was trying tosell it,becauseit iscustomary. The transaction, whichwas to take placein a motelroomwas preventedby the policein Makokou, assisted by the NGO ConservationJustice.
As noted in theForestry Code, hunting,taking, possession, transportation and selling offully protected speciesis prohibitedand violationsare punishable by3 to 6 monthsin prisonwithfines ranging from100,000to 10 millionfrancs.
Sentences thatoften struggletobe appliedand which,seepingthe amplificationof poaching,arenotdissuasive.Not to mention,the marginalization ofwildlife offense by the courtsthat do notoften weighenvironmental damagearising frompoaching.A collectiveconsciousness is notto be ignoredifwe are toprotect andsustain theGabonese environmental heritage.