Trade in protected species: Three ivory traders sentenced to six months in prison

Three human traffickers were convicted and convicted on Friday, June 3, 2022, by the first penitentiary chamber of the Court of First Instance in Lomé for the illegal and illegal trade in six elephant tusks.

The three traffickers received, after admitting the charges against them, six months in prison, four of which were suspended. In addition, they will pay a fine of two hundred thousand CFA francs each for blatant crime of possession, circulation and illegal marketing of wildlife products.

The three ivory dealers, AMEGNIGAN Raphaël, automakers, DOUTI Yendine, engine oil dealer and ALASSANI Ibrahim, car spare parts dealer, all three of Togolese nationality, knowing that the sale of ivory tusks is a substitute, carefully hid the six elephant barrels in a pothole instead of an engine for the transaction, where they were arrested on May 19, 2022.

This court ruling, although consistent with the vision of cooperation between the Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources (MERF) and the EAGLE-Togo network, which is active in the application of wildlife laws in many African states, is still low, as illicit cash trading is a serious crime and threat that must be taken seriously by African states.

According to the assistant coordinator of EAGLE-Togo, the laws are not made for form, but to be tough to deter the slightest offender. “Spending two months in prison does not deter an ivory trader. It is clear that such a decision cannot be so dissuasive that it causes others to abandon their intention to carry out such an illegal activity today in the context of transnational organized crime. network, ”he stated.

The illegal trade in which the three accomplices tried to engage falls under Article 796 of the new Penal Code, which penalizes anyone who circulates, sells, imports, exports or transits wild animals, live animals, trophies without a prison sentence of one to six months and a fine of one hundred thousand to five hundred thousand CFA francs or one of these two sanctions.

Article 761 of the same Code also punishes anyone who destroys or acts directly or indirectly without the right to animal or plant species with a penalty of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of one year, millions to five million CFA francs without reservation any other provision of the Code.

According to a water and forestry officer working in the central region, the court in Lomé met with strict enforcement of the law against traffickers of endangered species, adding: “It is fashionable for arrested traffickers to be severely and effectively punished law enforcement through strong and firm prison sentences, the only way to deter human traffickers or send a strong message to others who are involved or who may intend to carry out such illegal activities ”.

Remember that for this arrest of the three traffickers, at least three elephants were killed to have the six tusks seized. International trade in ivory has been declared illegal since 1989. But the population of African elephants continues to decline. Each year, 20,000 to 30,000 elephants are killed for their ivory, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); corresponding to 50 to 80 individuals per day. The species no longer has 415,000 pachyderms in Africa, compared to 3 to 5 million at the beginning of the last century.

According to the 2016 report on the status of African elephants, there are almost 10,000 elephants left throughout West Africa, and around 102 currently live in Togo, a still very fragile population that will need several years to recover.

Two major factors are considered to be the reason for this drastic decline in the number of elephants: On the one hand, the increase in illegal animal trade associated with the strong international demand for ivory. This traffic generates huge illegal profits for complex criminal organizations that are often responsible for the slaughter of elephants. On the other hand, the abusive exploitation of the natural resources necessary for the elephants due to industrial agriculture and the anarchic occupations of their habitats.

Unfortunately, the illegal trade in elephant tusks is constantly increasing, weighing three billion US dollars (almost 2,000 billion CFA francs) a year, with Southeast Asia as the main market, with China and Vietnam in particular as the main buyers. (EAGLE-Togo).

Nicolas Koffigan E. ADIGBLI