Gabon has announced that it has arrested a major elephant poacher for the third time in 3 years. He was caught with three other accomplices on Sunday with 10 elephant tusks. Despite being a repeat offender and major threat to elephants he faces just 1 year maximum sentence if convicted.
It is another example of laws not keeping pace with the scale and speed of rise of elephant poaching. Just a week ago Togo caught a notorious ivory smuggler responsible for thousands of elephants deaths and he faces just 12 months in jail if convicted.
In Gabon the poacher is Messimo Rodrigue and he has previously been arrested for elephant poaching earlier this year in January and also in 2010. This time he was caught with 10 tusks or the equivalent of another 5 dead elephants.
“Messimo Rodrigue was arrested this Sunday along with three accomplices in possession of 10 elephant tusks weighing a total of 93 kg,” according to the chief prosecutor of Franceville, Gilbert Barangolo, where Rodrigue was arrested.
“He has admitted to being an ivory trafficker,” Barangolo said, adding that the suspect was now in custody.
Luc Mathot, the head of the NGO Conservation Justice, which assists law enforcement authorities and initiated this operation, said that this was the third time Rodrigue was arrested for poaching or trafficking.
“Rodrigue was arrested once in 2010 and again in January this year. He is one of the most notorious wildlife criminals in the country.”
“We sincerely hope there will be no influence peddling or attempts to corrupt the process, and that this time he is severely punished,” Mathot added.
As a repeat offender Rodrique faces a maximum of 12 months in jail or a fine of up to about £26,000.
Bas Huijbregts, the Central African head of WWF’s campaign against illegal wildlife trade, also encouraged Gabon to jail Rodrigue, but also to toughen its anti-poaching and anti-trafficking laws.
“Over the past few years, Gabon has consistently shown itself to be a leader in the battle against wildlife criminality. But its wildlife laws are not stringent enough,” he said.
“The country is preparing to put in place some of the toughest laws in the region against wildlife criminality, creating the legal deterrent needed to stop ivory traffickers. We urge it to do so as soon as possible,” Huijbregts added.
The WWF campaigner also referred to neighbouring Republic of Congo where a similar offence would lead to much longer jail sentences. On Tuesday two wildlife smugglers were sentenced to 5 years each in prison. Repeat offenders there are also liable to have their sentences doubled.