Following a long term AALF (Support to the Implementation of the Wildlife Act) undercover investigation on an international ivory trafficking sea route, two traffickers were arrested in the sea port with 18 ivory tusks weighing a total of 178 kg on its way to board a ship.
The operation was carried out at the seaport by the Judicial Police and the AALF project (Appui à l’Application de la Loi sur la Faune), which is a partnership between the Water and Forestry Ministry and Conservation Justice.
The record seizure for Libreville is a testament the gravity of ivory trafficking.and the challenges a head.
The operation cracked down on an important and organized network receiving ivory coming in from all corners of the country. The ivory is then transported by ship to West Africa, specifically to Nigeria and Benin.
The ship – Emiliana Carneiro – is believed to have been involved in ivory trafficking for a decade. The two persons arrested are central in the ivory trafficking in the ship. One of them is a Togolese who is the stores and luggage manager, while the other is a Gabonese of Sao Tome extraction and he is the head of the local branch of the shipping company.
The ship was thoroughly searched, after their arrest, under the authority of the State Counsel, by the customs, Water and Forestry Ministry, the Gendarmerie, the Police and by Eco-guards from the National Agency for National Parks – ANPN. Shark meat and fins were recovered but no additional ivory found.
It is believed that once the ivory is transported to West Africa by sea, trafficking networks can easily send it directly to Asia from Calabar in Nigeria, Contonou in Benin or Lome in Togo.
The accused were transferred to court to answer their offenses. The law in Gabon provides merely 2 to 6 months imprisonment terms and with fines from 100 000 to 10 million francs. These punishments are not sufficiently deterring and are expected to be hardened in the near future.
Conservation Justice also started a new project taking the same approach to fighting illegal logging, and building an alternative to the Independent Observer approach. The alternative – Forest Law Enforcement- goes beyond observation to actual enforcement and court cases against defaulters fighting corruption attempts throughout the process. The AALFo project started in 2013 as CJ gave assistance to the Ministry of Water and Forestry in a case against a ministry official engaged in illegal logging (now behind bars) and 5 Chinese logging companies found in illegality.