La Depeche (Abidjan)

September 17, 2020

See link for photo.

Ivory traffickers despite the COVID-19 pandemic continue the crime of illicit and illegal ivory trafficking, thereby threatening protected species. Togo, where six elephant tusks were seized on July 24 in Kara, is stepping up the fight against wildlife crime through texts and arrests of traffickers to save elephants victims of illicit trafficking and the illegal ivory trade.

The seizure of last July is not the first of its kind. Indeed, between August 2013 and January 2014, around 4.5 tonnes of ivory had also been taken possession and 18 people arrested. The largest seizures were made on 23 and 29 January 2014 at the port of Lomé, the capital: the police discovered 3.8 tonnes of ivory in containers bound for Vietnam.

Most often, elephant tusks seized in Togo are not from the country, but come from neighboring countries and even central Africa, because in Togo, the elephant population had been decimated in the 1990s. The country has about 60 elephants who live in the different parks. However, the international ivory trade was banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The texts of Togo also sanction wildlife crime. The provisions of the new penal code in its environmental section strengthen the protection of flora and fauna. Article 761 of this code provides: “The destruction and commercialization, direct or indirect, without right of animal or plant species protected under the laws and regulations in force and international conventions to which the Republic of Togo is a party punished by a penalty of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million to fifty million without prejudice to any other provision of this code ”.

In Africa, the resurgence of elephant tusk trafficking in recent years has led to a decline in forest elephant populations (-60% in 10 years in the Congo Basin) and some savannah populations (- 50% in 5 years in Tanzania and Mozambique for example.

The existence of domestic ivory markets in Asia and Africa stimulate demand and are, at least in part, fueled by the illegal trade at the origin of this elephant slaughter. The demand for ivory for decoration, jewelry and knickknacks is pushing elephants to the brink of extinction. Thus, large criminal networks of organized traffickers are implicated in the illegal ivory trade to profit from this demand.

According to an Elephants in the Dust report, the increase in illegal ivory trafficking, as well as the loss of habitat, threatens the survival of Central African elephants as well as that of Asian elephants. “Like the diamonds in the blood of Sierra Leone or the minerals looted from the Congo, ivory seems to be the last resource of the conflict in Africa, torn from remote battle areas, easily convertible into cash and which today fuels conflicts in the four corners of the continent,” notes Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times.

The elephant is not the only victim of the crooked traffickers. Local communities are also suffering. Indeed, the increase in the killing of elephants in Africa and the illegal taking of other globally threatened species is jeopardizing not only wildlife, but also the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on tourism, as well. than the lives of guards and staff who protect wildlife and try to curb the phenomenon.

Despite the efforts, the ivory traffickers remain active. The success of the efforts depends on the availability of resources, political will and law enforcement, for while it is not possible to mobilize the resources necessary to significantly stimulate local conservation and law enforcement efforts throughout the chain of ivory trafficking, elephant populations will decline, and both the illicit trafficking of elephant tusks and the illegal ivory trade will continue. (EAGLE-Togo)