Victory in Guinea in a first ever wildlife law enforcement operation

by Mar 30, 2012Wildlife News

Guinea’s capital Conakry has been identified as a major illegal wildlife trafficking hub at an international scale. The UN Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has sent a mission of its secretariat based on repeated concerns from local parties. The mission concluded that the lack of application of Guinea’s wildlife law and disrespect to international law is exceptional and demands urgent action. LAGA (The Last Great Ape Organization) decided to assist at the request of local NGOS.

Today, Guinea had its first ever arrests of wildlife traffickers, and the beginning of its application of its wildlife law. 7 major traffickers have been identified and recorded explaining their international illegal activity, their methods of evading law enforcement authorities around the world, and their vast international networks. All seven were arrested today in a sting operation, as they were trying to sell more than 80 Kg of ivory and 10 leopard skins.

The operation was conducted by an Interpol team at the order of the Director of Police, a team sent by the Minister of Environment, assisted by the state counsel who was personally present in the operation. One of the agents participating in the operation said in the press conference – “this is the first time we have this since independence”.

The Minister of Justice was convinced to name a focal point for CITES and Wildlife cases, and the Police, at our request, named a head of a new section for wildlife crime.

A Guinean LAGA replication has been launched today, so hopefully this will continue in a sustainable way and set Guinea on an arrest and conviction rate of arresting one major wildlife criminal per week as we normally have in our replications.

This action could have never happened without the direct involvement of the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Justice and the Minister delegate of Security, Director of National Police and Head of Interpol NCB.

Luc Mathot left Gabon to assist in investigations and recruitment of the local team. The replication will take place by Charlotte Houpline of Wara Conservation Project with the support of USFS.

All this is a result of a mission of mere 14 days in total on a shoestring budget that consisted of not much more than the flights.

The recordings of the traffickers are very interesting exposing new modus operandi, networks with representatives in China and Europe, sales in the US, containers etc. As sources to all of Central Africa via Nigeria and Abidjan we had two suspects talking of Zimbabwe and Burundi as sources of ivory. This is very worrying if confirmed as it implies illegal sales of government stock.

Some ecomessages were already sent from the Interpol NCB of Conakry, and many more will be sent in the coming days.

Author: Ofir Drori
LAGA – The Last Great Ape Organization