Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

The fight to save Gabon’s elephants

1 March 2013

Categories: Homepage News, Elephants Campaign News

Gabon is a country known for its pro-wildlife stance as was most recently highlighted when President Ali Bongo ceremoniously torched the national ivory stock-pile in 2012 as a gesture of defiance towards illegal wildlife exploitation and ivory traffickers.

This small African nation is thought to be home to roughly half of Africa’s forest elephants, perhaps 50,000 altogether, but recent reports indicate that Gabon is also not immune to the poaching frenzy which is affecting so many elephant range states. In Minkebe National Park alone, it is estimated that 11,100 elephants have been killed since 2004. Law enforcement work being supported by Born Free partner, Conservation Justice also indicates that the illegal ivory market is well developed and active nation-wide

Working with the Judicial Police, Conservation Justice has assisted with investigations that have resulted in the arrest this week of a high ranking Gabonese official who has admitted to heading one of the country’s largest ivory trafficking networks. The arrest of Athanase Edou Mebiame is a big break-through in terms of illegal wildlife trade enforcement, as are the arrest of a further 13 ivory traffickers in the course of a 3-week sting operation. High powered rifles and ammunition as well as 24 elephant tusks were also seized and all eyes are now on the Gabon courts who will be expected to pass down the harshest sentence on the accused.

Conservation Justice assist the government of Gabon through mounting investigations, planning operations and raising awareness through the media on issues related to wildlife crime. They have also recently established a project to help the government tackle illegal logging, with a number of arrests already having been made.

Meanwhile in Bangkok, delegates for the next major CITES meeting will be discussing issues surrounding the survival of many species, including elephants. One topic is the establishment of a decision making mechanism to guide future sales of ivory. For many, the mere concept of fuelling an ivory market that is lacking control in many countries makes no sense as it continues to drive elephant poaching. Also up for discussion is the African Elephant Action Plan, a range-wide accepted blueprint to counter the multiple threats faced by Africa's elephants.

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