– News – Haut-Katanga: authorities seize 2 tonnes of ivory in Lubumbashi, ivory trade center

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo seized 2 tonnes of ivory in the city of Lubumbashi, a hub for ivory trade.

The seizure on May 14 is one of the biggest in recent years, according to Adams Cassinga, who heads Conserv Congo, an NGO that fights wildlife trade and was involved in the operation. The seized ivory is estimated at $ 6 million.

Authorities have arrested three people suspected of being members of one of the region’s largest animal trafficking rings. The network has been linked to the smuggling of 20 tonnes of ivory in the last five years alone.

The latest seizure represents more than 150 elephants killed for their tusks, Cassinga said. The tusks came from the southern African countries, which experienced an increase in trade in ivory in the 2000s, driven by demand from Asia, especially China.

At the height of the crisis, 30,000 elephants were killed each year, averaging 80 a day. African elephant populations have fallen by 80% in the last 100 years, according to a WWF analysis. The African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana) is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, while the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is critically endangered, one step away from extinction.

Poaching has declined in recent years, according to a 2021 report from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), a Geneva-based nonprofit. One of the factors mentioned for the decline is the weakening of criminal networks due to roundups and arrests.

“The reduction in poaching appears to be the result of the division through arrests and prosecutions of a large number of transnational organized criminal networks involved in poaching and trade in ivory in eastern and southern Africa between 2014 and 2020,” the report said. GI-TOC report.

The Lubumbashi raid was led by the DRC’s highest nature conservation authority, known by its French acronym, ICCN. It included members of the national police, judicial officials and the NGO Conserv Congo.

The team recovered the ivory from a hideout in Lubumbashi in the southern DRC. The smugglers brought the poached parts to the DRC from Zambia, which is located on the country’s southern border. Lubumbashi has become an important hub from which poaching wildlife parts are led out of Africa. The articles come mainly from South African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

“We are confident that this will bring a lot of deterrence to a place where previous wildlife laws were neglected and not enforced,” Cassinga said in a tweet.

Weak law enforcement, armed conflict and corruption have enabled international gangs to operate with impunity in West and Central Africa. The DRC, which shares borders with nine countries, serves as an important transit point for the movement of traded coins. The Central African nation, home to the largest rainforest area in the Congo Basin, is also a source country for illegal wildlife products.

Yet, from 2000 to 2014, when poaching on elephants was widespread, the DRC recovered only about 8 tons of ivory from seizures. Then, between 2015 and 2019, authorities confiscated 20 tonnes there, according to data collected by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a UK-based NGO.

“We are making a great effort to phase out all illegal trade networks. Over time, we have a greater impact on illegal networks, “said ICCN chief Olivier Mushiete in a telephone interview with Mongabay.

The Lubumbashi raid follows a series of raids in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, last year. Mushiete told Reuters at the time that they expected to recover more than 60 tons in future seizures. The current operation is the result of three years of investigation.

“The relationship between the government and civil society is improving. You can see that it is getting results,” Cassinga said. He added that support from partners like Zambia-based Wildlife Crime Prevention and international donors like the Rhino Recovery Fund is helping them fight wildlife trafficking.

Ivory poaching is one of the most lucrative illegal trades worth about $ 23 billion a year, according to Bloomberg.

CITES, the global convention on trade in wild animals, banned international trade in ivory in 1989. However, some countries continue to allow domestic trade and international trade, subject to varying degrees of regulation.

Over the past decade, efforts to reduce demand for ivory have accelerated, with the US imposing an almost complete ban on ivory trade in 2016 and China banning domestic trade in 2017. The EU has tightened its rules on ivory trade in 2021 Tighter exemptions restricts the legal trade in ivory, which conservationists say is often used as cover for illegal trade.

The three alleged traffickers in the Lubumbashi raid are due to appear in court this week.

Even if seizures and arrests increase, the impact on poaching may be limited by countries’ inability to prosecute suspected traffickers. The coordination of cross-border investigations and the collection of the necessary evidence is difficult. Game crime is often not a priority for law enforcement or judicial authorities.

The arrest of two Vietnamese nationals in the seizure of 3.3 tonnes of ivory in the Ugandan capital Kampala in 2019 did not result in convictions; both suspects skipped bail.

Raids also tend to attract intermediaries, but rarely lead to the capture of those who organize, finance, and profit the most from this illegal trade. ‘As for the settlement of the network, it is unlikely. It could be slowed down, ”said Chris Morris, who works for the Kenya-based organization Saving Elephants through Education and Justice (SEEJ). “These cartels are a business. They are prepared for losses from seizures and arrests.

24H Congo / MCP, via

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