afrol News, 10 December - An operation by special police forces earlier this week in the Central African Republic led to the arrest of a key wildlife smuggler and seizure of elephant tusks and cat skins.
This comes amidst a series of similar successful operations in Cameroon, Gabon and Congo Brazzaville (RoC). Environmentalists this week applauded these efforts saying they "give a clear warning to wildlife traffickers in the region."
Two elephant tusks, five panther and two lion skins were seized in the operation staged early this week. They were hidden under a pile of cow skins in a truck.
The smuggler – a Central African citizen working within an international network – was en route to Nigeria when he was arrested at a checkpoint some 25 kilometres outside the capital, Bangui. He is to be prosecuted soon. Judicial authorities in Bangui have provided full support to the operation.
The arrests in the Central African Republic come as part of a major regional clampdown on poachers and smugglers. Game rangers in the country have patrolled remote border areas jointly with colleagues from Cameroon and Congo Brazzaville.
Last week, the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife assisted by police and The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA), which fights for wildlife law enforcement in Cameroon and the rest of Central Africa, arrested three tr
African forest elephant in the Central African Republic's Dzanga-Ndoki National Park
affickers with 17 turtle shells in two different operations.
Another dealer was arrested with 30 kilos of ivory in Congo Brazzaville, and should be prosecuted. Even in Gabon, 16 ivory smugglers were caught with more than 100 kilos of ivory. All are in jail, awaiting trial.
The WWF hailed these developments. "This shows how successful wildlife law enforcement activities can be when they are supported at the highest level," said Jean-Bernard Yarissem, WWF Country Director in Bangui. "Collaboration between Central African authorities and WWF's RALF project are paying off," he added.
The organisation's RALF (French acronym for Strengthening of the Wildlife Law Enforcement) project aims to increase wildlife law enforcement activities and judiciary follow-up of wildlife crimes in the country, targeting mainly high-level wildlife traffickers. It works closely with the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior.
"We are really moving a step forward as regional wildlife law enforcement is becoming a reality in Central Africa," commented Alain Ononino, Head of Legal Department at the Last Grape Ape (LAGA).
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