The Bench in Brazzaville Hands Down A Painful Message to Ivory Smugglers

It may seem a small thing: An elephant is killed for its ivory tusks, a man buys ivory to sell at a huge profit in China, he gets arrested and pays the price. Tragically for too long and in too many countries such wildlife crimes have been treated as minor infringements of the law.

How much is an elephant’s life worth? Well, one judge in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo has decided that four years is a suitable price to pay for trying to illegally smuggle ivory that cost numerous elephants their lives.

It may seem a small thing: An elephant is killed for its ivory tusks, a man buys ivory to sell at a huge profit in China, he gets arrested and pays the price. Tragically for too long and in too many countries such wildlife crimes have been treated as minor infringements of the law.

That is starting to change – but whether the change will be great enough or quick enough to save elephants, especially in West and Central Africa, we just don’t know.

What the International Fund for Animal Welfare does know, and what this recent example fromBrazzavilleclearly shows, is that encouraging customs agents, law enforcement officers and judges to take wildlife crime more seriously is one part of the equation needed to shut down the international ivory trade.

That’s one reason IFAW’s Prevention of Illegal Wildlife Trade training team will be in Botswana this week collaborating with experts from Interpol, Canada and South Africa on morale-building, interagency cooperation including investigative and enforcement techniques. We’ve invited wildlife officers and police from ten neighbouring Southern African countries, generously hosted by the Botswana authorities, to improve their training so they can arrest more people and ultimately save more animals.

The judge inBrazzavillesent a strong message that the exploitation of wildlife and ecosystems will not be tolerated and that traffickers will be punished.

IFAW has already put out a press release highlighting this conviction to spread the word that ivory smuggling is a serious crime. Hopefully, this stiff sentence will deter others.

We do a lot of demand-reduction work in China-- as you can read in Grace Gabriel’s blog postings -- to raise awareness of the heavy costs of the ivory trade; to elephants, wildlife rangers, ecosystems, and the people who share space with these animals.

There will be more blog postings in the next couple of weeks about the training inBotswana, including interviews with people at the front lines in the war on wildlife trafficking.

Please keep an eye out for them. Until then, IFAW staff around the world will keep working to save elephants because the value of their lives should be measured in years and decades rather than money.

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare efforts to protect animals in crisis around the world, visit http://ifaw.org

--AH

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