Gabon torches their ivory stock as poachers attack okapi reserve

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
July 02, 2012



Last week, the west African nation of Gabon committed over 1,200 ivory tusks and carvings to the fire. The act, which was meant to send a strong signal to illegal wildlife poachers across Africa, came only a few days after militia poachers stormed the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The assailants killed 13 okapis and six people, including two wildlife rangers, in retaliation for a crackdown against poaching and mining in the protected area. Poaching has reached epidemic levels in Africa due to increasing bushmeat consumption and a rise in East Asian demand for black-market ivory and rhino horns.

"Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced," the president of Gabon, Ali Bongo, said at the planned burning. "We don’t want our children to inherit an empty forest. For that reason, we cannot allow this trafficking to continue."

Gabon burns its ivory. © James Morgan / WWF.
Gabon burns its ivory. © James Morgan / WWF.
Bongo, himself, lit the ivory on fire, which experts say belong to around 850 slaughtered elephants. The ivory was audited by the World Wide Fund for Wildlife (WWF) and the wildlife trade group, TRAFFIC, to ensure it contained Gabon's entire ivory stockpile.

Meanwhile in the DRC, the head of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve said that their attackers, who are known as Mai Mai Simba rebels, "are not fighting for a political cause," but "is made up of elephant poachers and illegal miners."

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently reported that monitored elephant populations in Central Africa were cut in half between 2006 and 2011.

Poachers, backed by shadowy criminal syndicates, have also become more brazen. In addition to the murderous attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, poachers recently killed over 400 elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon in an onslaught that may have lasted weeks. The indiscriminate poachers, believed to be Sudanese, even killed elephant calves.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 02, 2012).

Gabon torches their ivory stock as poachers attack okapi reserve.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0702-hance-gabon-ivory-burn.html