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December 13, 2010 / V A Nichols

Wildlife Smuggling Ring Broken Up In Central Africa

Wildlife Smuggling Ring Broken Up In Central Africa

posted by: Judy Molland 20 hours ago (www.Care2.com)

Good news for wildlife! Sting operations in the central African countries of Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo have busted several highly organized smuggling rings responsible for sending endangered species abroad.

Several Key Dealers Arrested

As a result, authorities arrested key dealers and recovered hundreds of pounds of ivory, turtle shells and animal skins. Too late for these creatures, but hopefully thousands more will be safe in the future.

It is wonderful to be able to share some positive news on this front: last summer I wrote here about the horrible discovery that more than five tons of illegal bushmeat is smuggled from Africa every week in personal luggage through Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport. While plenty of legal sanctions exist, they were clearly not being enforced.

Enforcing Laws To Protect Endangered Species

By contrast, this operation coordinated by the Last Great Ape Organization (Laga), a wildlife law-enforcement NGO in Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic and Congo-Brazzaville, marks a step forward toward enforcement of the laws protecting endangered species.

From The Guardian:

In Gabon, undercover agents posing as smugglers picked up 16 dealers in possession of 150kg of illegal polished ivory. The haul, estimated to be worth about £90,000 on the international market and probably destined for China, the world’s leading market for “white gold”, was going via Nigeria, one of the main smuggling routes. All 16 were remanded in custody, having been refused bail following the operation, which focused on a hotel, a local market and a sculptor’s studio following a long investigation…..

In Cameroon, three dealers trading 17 turtle shells were arrested. A cargo of 1,000 African grey parrots worth an estimated £65,000 was intercepted being smuggled into Nigeria and a policeman was arrested on suspicion of accepting a £2,000 bribe to release it and allow it on its way.

The operation in the Central African Republic recovered seven leopard skins, two lion skins and two tusks concealed beneath a pile of cowhides in a dealer’s truck. He was arrested. The skins were thought to be destined for Europe or the US to decorate wealthy homes. On the same day, wildlife activists in Ouesso in the north of Congo-Brazzaville found a further 30kg of ivory.

Some Of The Most Corrupt Countries In The World

Since these four countries are continually ranked by Transparency International as some of the most corrupt countries in the world, this sting operation will only make a small dent in the wildlife smuggling trade.

As Ofir Drori, the founder of Laga, pointed out, the poachers do not work alone: “Wildlife extinction doesn’t start with poachers, it starts with wealthy white-collar criminals who have been operating in central Africa for over 20 years.”

And yet, today’s news is encouraging.

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