30 traffickers arrested across 4 African countries

Thirty wildlife traffickers have been arrested across 4 African countries during the first quarter of this year. The traffickers were arrested in Ivory Coast, Congo, Gabon and Togo during crackdown operations carried out under the framework of the government’s collaboration with EAGLE network that assists wildlife officials in the application of the wildlife law in these countries.

They were arrested while trafficking in protected wildlife species including live monkeys and chimpanzees. Elephant tusks and leopard skins were equally seized during operations that were done in the 4 countries. Seventeen ivory traffickers were arrested with over 165kg of elephant tusks which include 33kg of ivory pieces and about 132kg tusks with 30kg originating from Cameroon and seized in Togo. Six leopard skin traffickers and chimpanzee trafficker were also arrested with 4 leopard skins as well as a chimp seized in Ivory Coast and Congo. Five other traffickers were arrested with 17 live monkeys in Togo.

Among those arrested are five traffickers in Togo including a highly suspected harden criminal with multiple nationalities of Israeli/Belarus/Russian/Kazakhstan found on identification documents bearing altered names and details he carried along.  They were intercepted by Togolese Gendarmerie on a sailing boat containing a shipment of 17 protected monkeys from Brazil. EAGLE-Togo assisted in the operation in establishing the illegality of the shipment. The trafficker with several nationalities later found his way out of cell and out of Togo. Those close to the case say corruption may have played a part in the escape of the trafficker.

 A fugitive ivory trafficker in Congo who was wanted in connection to a past operation that was carried out in 2023 is also among those arrested. The fugitive escaped during the operation where a trafficker was arrested with 2 elephant tusks and sentenced to 4 years in prison. After multiple failed attempts to arrest the fugitive who at each time mysteriously disappeared, he was finally arrested in the month of February.

The illegal trade in wildlife protected species in Africa continues and some governments and wildlife law enforcement are mounting efforts to stem the tide. The high consumer demands of a wide variety of illicit wildlife products from Asia is a major factor booming the activity.

Ofir Drori, the founder of Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE), says “From fighting the trafficking networks on the ground I can say we see no signs of decline whatsoever, and rather a continued increase in levels of trafficking.”

EAGLE network is made up of NGOs, including LAGA, working in collaboration with some governments in Africa to improve the application of national environmental legislation. The EAGLE network is active in Cameroon (LAGA) and 7 other countries in Africa, Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Togo, and Uganda working closely with the governments to combat illegal wildlife trade. Last year the network assisted in the arrest of 90 traffickers.

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