Gabon impounds 200kg of ivory, arrests two alleged smugglers



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The central African state of Gabon has impounded more than 200 kilograms of ivory in what may be its largest seizure ever.

Gabon, which is home to half of Africa’s endangered forest elephants, is seeking to promote ecotourism and has poured money into protecting its 50,000 forest elephants, which are coveted by ivory poachers for their particularly hard, straight tusks.

Numbers have been falling dramatically in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

“We can confirm the seizure of around 200 kilograms of ivory, which represents about 20 elephants,” government spokesman Alain Claude Bilie By Nze said.

The conservation group EAGLE said two Gabonese men originally from Nigeria and Cameroon had been arrested on Monday, allegedly carrying 42 tusks.

Professor Lee White from Gabon’s national parks agency said one of the suspects worked for Gabon’s Water and Forest Department.

Mr Bilie By Nze said the seizure did not necessarily show poaching was getting worse in Gabon, since the elephants might have been killed a long time ago.

Elephants in the northern Minkebe national park have been particularly vulnerable in recent years because it adjoins Cameroon, where anti-poaching measures are more lax.

In 2012, Gabon burned five tonnes of ivory with millions of dollars to mark the government’s commitment to battling poachers.

The government said the stockpile, which contained 1,293 pieces of rough ivory and 17,730 pieces of worked ivory, would have amounted to about 850 elephants.