Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

The Eagle Network Battles On

9 March 2016

Categories: Homepage News, EAGLE News

Over a recent three month period (November 2015 to January 2016), the EAGLE Network has been involved in numerous investigations that have led to the successful arrest and prosecution of wildlife traffickers and corrupt police officers implicated in the illicit animal trade. Here are some of these, country by country:

In Cameroon, the LAGA team have contributed to the arrests of nine criminals, including three cyber criminals, a new threat that is a worrying gateway for illegal trade.

Two traffickers dealing in giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) scales were arrested in November 2015, within two weeks of each other. The first was a commercial bus driver and was caught close to Nsimalen International Airport with 100kg of scales. This important investigation proved that the airport was a key route for transporting such wildlife parts, and led to a much improved ability for government authorities to prevent further attempts of illegal trade. The other trafficker was arrested trying to sell 14kg of giant pangolin scales, believed to have come from the Deng Deng National Park. Locally, EAGLE will urge the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife to increase Cameroon’s protection of its giant pangolins by reclassifying the species to Class A, the highest afforded. 

Three traffickers were detained in December, two caught with a large haul including three gorilla skulls, a chimpanzee skull and an elephant tail. The third was arrested in the capital city with 19 chimpanzee skulls, from animals who had been poached by his brother.

January saw the arrest of cyber criminals in Cameroon. The three men had posted an online ad for the sale of two lion cubs and two cheetah cubs. Forged CITES permits were used, and although the ad was believed to be a scam, such activities only fuel the very real online illegal trade, fast becoming an increasing threat to the wildlife involved.

In the past few months in Gabon, there have been numerous arrests of individuals trafficking ivory and leopard skins. In November, three operations run by the Gabonese EAGLE project (AALF) resulted in seven arrests and involved eight elephant tusks and two leopard skins. December saw the arrest of an official of the Forestry and Wildlife Department and his accomplice, who were caught with 42 elephant tusks. They are thought to have been involved in the trafficking of ivory for many years, so their arrests are a significant result in the battle against this damaging crime. In January, the two men were sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay US$35,000.  The official faces an additional charge of corruption. Also in January, there were the successful arrests of three more ivory traffickers, as well as five men trying to sell two leopard skins, who were also found with a 12-calibre gun, which would have been used to kill the animals.

Five traffickers of live apes were arrested in Guinea in November. After a long investigation by GALF, the Guinean EAGLE project, four men were caught with two chimpanzee infants intended for a transaction taking place at a hotel. This operation uncovered an ape trafficking network with links to Chinese wildlife traffickers and also led to the arrest of a fifth individual, who played a significant role in the ape trafficking network around Boke. He has since been fined and sentenced to three months imprisonment.

In Togo, TALFF (the local EAGLE project) worked together with government authorities to successfully arrest three ivory traffickers found with two elephant tusks, most likely poached from inside Fazao Mafakassa Park. Another trafficker was arrested with 80kg of shark fins hidden in his luggage as he travelled from Nigeria to Ghana, but was caught at the Togo–Benin border.

Three traffickers were arrested in Senegal and sentenced to six months in prison and fined US$11,500 each for possession of four Timnah parrots (Psittacus timneh), two great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and ten turtles. After identifying the four parrots by the rings on their legs, it became clear that they were from a September seizure that led to the arrest of the notorious Aziz Sall…the birds had been stolen from the sanctuary where they were being rehabilitated after their ordeal! Unfortunately, in January the three traffickers were released after a presidential pardon.

In November, EAGLE Uganda and police arrested four traffickers, two with 25kg of ivory and the other two with a fresh elephant trunk, which is worth hundreds of dollars as an important traditional medicine ingredient or as a trophy. In December, police arrested four Vietnamese traffickers while attempting to export 36kg of ivory and 3kg of rhino horn at Entebbe International Airport. EAGLE Uganda helped keep the men in prison by providing an interpreter to aid with the interrogation. In January, the team assisted in operations that led to the arrest of three more ivory traffickers, two of which were caught with 69kg of ivory and were assisted by two corrupt police officers who are now under investigation. The third trafficker, a 25 year old Guinean, was arrested while trying to sell 20kg of ivory, a sample of a two tonne shipment he was negotiating the sale of. This has sparked a joint investigation with the GALF team in Guinea.

The EAGLE Network without doubt continues its invaluable work to catch the organised traders who are threatening the survival of African wildlife. With their continuing efforts there is hope that we can one day see these terrible crimes curtailed and their prized ‘specimens’ no longer under such acute threat in the wild.

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