Cotonou (AFP) – Three men — two Guineans and an Ivorian — were in custody in Benin on Friday on suspicion of ivory trafficking, police in the financial hub of Cotonou said.
The trio were arrested in a hotel “as they tried to sell about 30 kilograms of ivory estimated at more than 10 million CFA (15,000 euros, $20,000)”, said Benin Interpol head Marcellin Abbe.
The arrests were the first against suspected ivory smugglers in Benin, said local police spokesman Adrien Tchomakou.
“These people have been brought before the state prosecutor and received a committal order (for trial) on Thursday,” he added.
Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But that has not stopped criminal gangs seeking to exploit a continued demand for tusks in Asia.
Conservation group Save the Elephants said in July that the price of ivory taken from African elephants had tripled in the past four years in China, driving a wave of killing across the continent.
The Kenya-based group studying ivory sales in China said prices for raw ivory had risen from $750 per kilo in 2010 to $2,100 in 2014.
Similar price increases had been seen in Thailand. Save the Elephants estimates an average of 33,000 elephants were lost to poachers every year between 2010 and 2012.
Togo, which borders Benin, has long been seen as a staging post for smugglers but has in recent years clamped down on the practice, employing technology such as scanners and DNA testing on contraband to prosecute smugglers.