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Gabon - Cameroon International Ivory trafficking Network dismantled

Published on 08/14/2023, 2:18 PM

A huge shipment of ivory that was being transported from Gabon to Cameroon has been intercepted in Gabon during a major operation targeting ivory trafficking that was organised by a vast ivory trafficking network. Several people involved in the international trafficking, including three key players, were arrested. 

 

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The operations : August 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2023

 The joint operation was carried out by the Moyen-Ogooué Judicial Police Antenna, the Provincial Directorate of Water and Forestry of the same province and the Anti-Poaching Directorate, with the support of an NGO called Conservation Justice.
These days, August 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2023, marked a significant turning point in the relentless fight against the illegal ivory trade in Gabon.

trafic ivoire congo cameroun


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A Gabonese national of Cameroonian origin person arrested driving a vehicle

The decisive operation began on the evening of Tuesday, August 8, 2023, when officers from the Moyen-Ogooué Provincial Judicial Police arrested a person suspected of being actively involved in ivory trafficking. As a result of crucial information obtained through in-depth investigations, the main suspect, a Gabonese national of Cameroonian origin, was arrested driving a vehicle in the company of his partner.  

A cleverly designed secret compartment hidden

A thorough and lengthy search of the vehicle eventually revealed the existence of a cleverly designed secret compartment hidden under the tipper of the pick-up used by the alleged ivory trafficker.  

The officers discovered :

  • 19 elephant tusks and 4 pieces of ivory weighing a total of 120kg,
  • 18 rounds of 458 calibre hunting ammunition,
  • nearly a million CFA francs in cash,
  • illegal substances (Tramadol)
  • expired residence permit belonging to a well-known Cameroonian ivory trafficker.

Acknowledgement involvement in the illegal possession, purchase and transport of the ivory

The arrested alleged trafficker acknowledged his involvement in the illegal possession, purchase and transport of the ivory, admitting to the illegal nature of his activities. He also revealed collaborating with another ivory trafficker who was well known to law enforcement officials  and who had just been arrested on other charges by officers of the  General Directorate of Research of the Gendarmerie' of the Moyen-Ogooué province. When confronted with the evidence, the second trafficker, also admitted to some acts he was accused of.

Important trafficker

Another accomplice was arrested on August 9, 2023 for his alleged role as seller of part of the seized ivory, which was said to have come from the town of Mandji. On 10 August 2023, another key man in the organisation was arrested. He is alleged to have facilitated an ivory transaction, this time in Lambaréné. Finally, on 11th an important trafficker who has already been sentenced to jail in the past years has been denunciated and then arrested in Makokou, in North-East Gabon. He was in charge of gathering ivory in East and North-East Gabon before and was waiting for the transporters, who had been arrested on 8th in Lambarene, 500 km from there. It clearly shows how this network works in all Gabon.


"This type of operation is vital and should be repeated to dismantle the few large ivory trafficking networks that have managed to survive in Gabon, where the political will to protect the environment remains strong. The forest elephant population is estimated at 95,000 and appears to be stable, making it their last big refuge. But the pressure remains, particularly from Cameroon". says Luc Mathot, founding director of the NGO Conservation Justice, which assists Gabonese authorities in the fight against ivory trafficking, was optimistic, congratulating the operation:


 Scope of the criminal organisation

The individuals arrested are suspected of being part of a well-organised criminal network that has been operating between Cameroon and Gabon for several long years and is suspected of having already exported several tonnes of ivory from Gabon to Cameroon.

Funds, ammunition and facilitates the transport of ivory

The network provides funds, ammunition and facilitates the transport of ivory from elephants killed by organised poachers, posing a serious threat to the survival of elephants and national security. Vehicles fitted with secret compartments are used to conceal the ivory and evade controls. More than a dozen people could be involved, with ivory drop-off points spread across various provinces of Gabon. The organisation has set up a modern and sophisticated system to ensure the success of its ivory collection and delivery operations to Cameroon.

Repercussions of the operation

Conservation Justice underlines the crucial importance of this law enforcement operation in the ongoing fight against environmental crime in Gabon. This significant step forward demonstrates the strong commitment of the Gabonese authorities and the effectiveness of their collaboration with non-governmental organisations in dismantling the criminal networks that threaten forest elephants.

Links with international crime

Wildlife crime generates huge profits for criminal networks, rivalling the trafficking of drugs, arms and human beings. This represents a major security risk, with organised mafia-type networks prepared to do anything to enrich themselves. Elephant tusks remain highly prized in Asia, despite the efforts of some countries, such as China, which finally banned domestic ivory trade in 2015.
The success of this operation underlines the political will in Gabon, but also the importance of regional collaboration in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking. This international network is organised from Cameroon, which is a transit country for ivory bound for Asian.

“The illegal wildlife trade is routed in corruption. This is a good example for that of a very criminal network driving elephants to extinction. It has already been caught once and rewarded with a ridiculous sentence  only to continue their illegal activities undisturbed. One of the main leaders of the network was sentenced in Cameroon to a ridiculously low prison term despite being arrested with more than 600kg of ivory in 2020. And their illegal activities have continued undisturbed.explains Ofir Drori, founder of the EAGLE network, which is active in a dozen countries including Cameroon and Gabon. 


About Conservation Justice

Since 2010, Conservation Justice is a Belgian association which 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.
Another objective if the fight against illegal logging, as these two types of environmental crimes are linked. Conservation Justice collaborates closely with LAGA (www.laga-enforcement.org) and follows its methods. Conservation Justice is also member and one of the founding NGO of the EAGLE Network (http://www.eagle-enforcement.org).

www.conservation-justice.org


Contact press

Luc Mathot
luc@conservation-justice.org 
Conservation Justice
Director – Founder
www.conservation-justice.org
EAGLE Network
Co-founder
www.eagle-enforcement.org

 

Press release published by Mathot Luc
Published on 08/14/2023, 2:18 PM on 24presse.com
Mathot Luc


www.conservation-justice.org/fr/
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