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.