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.
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.
The Judicial Police, supported by the AALF project (Support to the Application of the Wildlife Act), a collaboration between Conservation Justice and Forestry, got their hands on four individuals involved in the sale of panther skins in Mitzic. They were arrested Wednesday, Oct. 1 in the act of sale of four leopard skins.
This network is certainly not at its first act as some of these members are well known in the traffic. Three of them are of Ghanaian nationality (MINTA Samuel, Koffi EWOUA, and BAFOE Clement) and a Gabonese national (ZOGO NDONG Arthur). They are in custody and will be sent to Oyem for prosecution on Monday, October 29, 2014.
The panther is often respected and feared, while attack are very rare. It is in any case sacred for many Gabonese ethnic groups. This is the case in mitsogo and pouvi cultures with the secret society nzergho (Panther). But all ethnic groups in Gabon accord great respect to the panther.
Panther skin is one of the strongest symbols of the “Bwiti” initiation rite, particularly in the context of traditional dances. Although her skin and teeth are traditionally used, it is often said that killing a panther attracts evil spirits on the hunters and the village involved in the killing of a panther.
This is certainly what explains the Gabonese ethnographer and author André Raponda-Walker who attended one of these ceremonies for three days near Fougamou. It is perhaps also because of this respect that this species was chosen as a symbol of the national football team of Gabon.
This unfortunately does not prevents the sale of panther skins and exports to Nigeria, Europe and of course Asia. We see that in any case the Gabonese wildlife is threatened from all sides and whatever the species. Today, it is mainly elephants, leopard and pangolins, which are popular with foreign markets. But tomorrow, what will be left?
Today, the survival of the panther is also based on the place that wish to grant him one of modern society and a strict application of the law by the authorities, security forces and the Forestry Commission could allow its survival the long term. Still remember that hunting, taking, possession, transportation and marketing of fully protected species is prohibited and violations is punishable by 3 to 6 months in prison and fines ranging from 100 000-10000000 francs. The traffickers arrested and will answer for their actions before the Gabonese justice.
After the conviction of Moussa Bawa Bello and Alidou Mama to three years imprisonment, it was the turn of their accomplices. TANKOUANOU Valentine BOUNDJA Lény, BINDJA Soumaila, IDITI Soulidja YONLY Djabouaro and André were sentenced on Tuesday, October 7th at the same prison time, 3 years’ imprisonment. They must also pay a fine of 500,000 CFA francs each and 2,000,000 in damages to CENAGREF (National Centre for Wildlife Reserves Management). Wombo Boudjali and Jonathan Yombo have meanwhile been acquitted for lack of evidence.
They were arrested on the outskirts of the park Pendjari as a result of operations conducted by the judicial police, the gendarmerie and CENGREF agents. A seizure of 56 kg of ivory had also been achieved last August 22, 2014 at Tanguieta. This was facilitated by the support of the program Law Enforcement Support on the fauna and flora in Benin, AALF-B, and the NGO Conservation Justice. Note that Valentin TANKOUANOU is employed by CENAGREF and facilitated poaching in the park Penjdari, he was supposed to protect!
Benin here tackles important ivory networks around its flagship park, but also against international ivory trafficking from other countries. Indeed, on August 12, three people were arrested in Cotonou with 30 kg of ivory that would come from Central Africa and more specifically from Gabon. ANGO Djafarou, Cisse Seybou and DIAWARA Mamade who must also answer for their actions in the month of October. The fight against ivory trafficking must inevitably be transnational and based on laws and dissuasive sanctions.
The maximum penalty under the Benin wildlife law provides in Articles 153, 154, 155, 166, 158 and imprisonment of up to five years for poaching of protected species or marketing their products. The maximum penalty in the Gabon Forest Code is still only six months in prison, making it one of the weakest laws in African countries in this regard.
Although it has not been hit by Ebola, the Gabonese government has introduced many measures to ensure that the disease does not cross our borders. One of them was the ban on the import or export of game meat from infected countries.
This measure, although beneficial, has some limits, because if it prohibits the import and export, it does not prohibit local consumption, and does not solve the problem of marketing and transport to urban centers. The wildlife diversity of Gabon is well known, forests are full of animals that are prized for their trophies and / or meat wildlife. Every day, many species, including those that are on the list of fully protected species, are hunted and then sold in many markets around Gabon. Indeed it is not uncommon to find bush meat of fully protected species in markets around Libreville. Giant Pangolins, chimpanzees, mandrills, gorillas, etc. You can find everything.
In Gabon, hunting has always been a complex issue, many people live local products. However, given the current situation, the authorities should get tough and engage in genuine prevention. It is clear that some individuals engage in hunting and industrial sales networks exist. But it is especially when bush meat is brought in large urban centers, the risk of transmission and propagation is especially great. So far, Gabon has been hit by three waves of Ebola epidemic (1996, 2001, 2002), which were concentrated in the villages of origin in the north-east of the country especially. But the risk remains and transporting bush meat to urban centers is a major risk.
We still remember the last big game of capture by the provincial authorities of Waters and Forests in Haut-Ogooué and the Judicial Police. Mbida Rose, known for her illicit trafficking of bush meat and even ivory was arrested in January and again in April with bush meat and ivory, but without really being bothered by the law.
In DRC, Ebola just reappeared because of a hunter who had killed a monkey and given it to his wife to cook it. She then infected her doctor, then her husband, on which samples have identified the virus. The CIRMF, based in Franceville confirmed both cases. The epidemic has grown and has already killed more than 40 people in one month. Hopefully it will be contained to avoid the drama known at this time in West Africa.
Last June 2014, Mr. BOLANGOUGA, an ecoguard at the ODZALA-KOKOUA Park (Congo) interrogated a certain ISSA aboard a motorcycle, on which stood a bag. When the guard approached the suspect; he fled, but later two points of ivory into six pieces were seized. Thanks to a good cooperation between the Congolese and Gabonese authorities, including the Mwagna National Park, the police brigade in Mekambo proceeded to the arrest of Mr. Sekou SISSAKOU alias Issa, on July 21st. He was of Congolese nationality but from Mali, a notorious trafficker known for his misdeeds.
The Congolese authorities confirm that Issa is indeed a wanted man and the name is one of the nicknames he uses to sell (buying and selling) ivory. Mr. Sekou SISSAKOU alias Issa was taken to the border at EKATA and handed over to the Congolese authorities for jurisdiction, July 25, 2014, by the gendarmerie and the National Parks Agency.
In August, he was finally tried and convicted by a court of EWO to five (5) years in prison. This file is in any case a good example of the result of good cooperation between the Gabonese and Congolese authorities on the fight against ivory trade in Central Africa. Still in Congo, a Gabonese national Jean Claude Zoula was sentenced to three years in prison on July 3rd, and fined 200,000 CFA francs and two million CFA francs in damages to the Forestry Commission, this time at a Tribunal in Ouesso. He lives in Vadhy in Gabon but was arrested April 30, 2014 in a gold mining camp in Congo for trafficking and illegal possession of fully protected species (two ivory tusks).
They would have preferred to be sentenced in Gabon where the law provides for prison sentences of up to six months than for ivory trafficking.