GABON: the ivory storage site of the Lambaréné Court, target of trafficking


Boris Ngounou, Afrik 21

Date Published

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In the town of Lambaréné in western Gabon, three suspected wildlife traffickers have just fallen into the cracks of the judicial police. They were arrested in possession of about 81 kg of ivory. This loot was stolen from the ivory parts storage store of the Lambaréné Court of First Instance.

The recent operation to combat wildlife trafficking in the town of Lambaréné in western Gabon was a success. On the day of June 23, 2022, a trio of alleged wildlife traffickers were arrested. All Gabonese nationals, the suspects were preparing to sell six entire elephant tusks as well as seventeen pieces of ivory tusks and a panther skin carefully stored in suitcases and travel bags, when they were apprehended. The total weight of the catch is around 81 kg of ivory.

Curiously, the ivory pieces marked and would come, according to the assertions of the defendants, from the seals of the court of first instance of Lambaréné. It is with the help of two accomplices working for this court that the alleged traffickers would have robbed the store of storage of the seized ivory pieces.

This operation owes its success to the joint intervention of officers of the judicial police, the General Directorate of Wildlife and Protected Areas (DGFAP) and the Provincial Directorate of Water and Forests, supported by Conservation Justice, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working for the application of wildlife law.

The Vulnerability of Ivory Storage Sites

The alleged traffickers will have to answer for the facts of possession and attempted sale of trophies of fully protected species. They were taken into custody in the premises of the judicial police of Lambaréné pending their presentation before the Special Prosecutor’s Office in Libreville. The latter has been dealing with this type of case for 3 years already with the result that 80-90% of ivory traffickers arrested are sentenced to prison terms, the duration of which can reach 10 years with regard to ivory trafficking.

Cases of wildlife trafficking involving justice officials are becoming a concern in Gabon. “These networks organized in the different types of lucrative trafficking must be fought firmly because they can dramatically erode the rule of law by diverting some servants of the law from their prerogatives and duties,” Conservation Justice said in a note.

The vulnerability of storage sites for seized ivory pieces and hunting weapons promotes ivory trafficking in Gabon. And in 2020, tusks were stolen from the Lambaréné Court and tusks from the Libreville Court were even seized in neighboring Cameroon.

In 2015 nearly 300 kg of ivory reportedly disappeared from the Oyem court in the north of the country. The audit report of government ivory stocks in 2012 states that ivory tusks registered at the Lambaréné court had disappeared.

A year earlier in 2011, another report by the National Parks Agency revealed the disappearance of 17 ivory tusks from the stock of the Makokou court in the northeast of the country.