For the five Chinese wood buyers recently arrived in Gabon it must have seemed like an exotic treat when workers of the EBS (Emirates Bois Sarl) logging company operating east of Makokou in NE Gabon invited them to sit down for a meal of freshly butchered roasted elephant trunk. But acting on a tip off from a Gabonese citizen who was shocked to see this behavior, a team from Gabon’s National Parks Service arrived before they could savour their meal. The five visitors and a further nine resident Chinese workers are in custody and a criminal investigation is underway.
Senior Conservator, Dr. Joseph Okouyi, described how his team found fresh and smoked meat from several elephants in the kitchen, as well as ivory trinkets and chop sticks carved by the forestry workers in their spare time from ivory purchased from local poachers. They also had a stash of giant pangolin scales, used in traditional Chinese medicine, a pair of horns from the rare Bongo antelope, and a Winchester rifle.
National parks staff subsequently arrested one of the hunters who had provided elephant meat and ivory to the Chinese buyers, confiscating an illegal elephant gun and a large tusk. A fresh carcass was subsequently discovered in the forest. The investigation is ongoing and Dr. Okouyi expects to prosecute on Monday morning.
Professor Lee White CBE, head of Gabon’s National Parks Agency was in New York to attend a special event at the Clinton Global Initiative hosted by Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea when he received news of the arrest. “This incident is not an isolated one” he stated. “Unfortunately these guests in our country have abused our hospitality and rather than contributing to the sustainable development of Gabon through their forestry operations they are driving the destruction of our natural heritage”. Professor White went on to stress the fact that elephant and rhino poaching are out of control across most of Africa and that 75% of all forest elephants have been slaughtered in the last decade by poachers who are more and more aggressive and who have developed links to organized crime”.
Speaking at the United Nations President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon stressed that: “The magnitude of illicit gains from rhino horn, ivory and other wildlife products, has made organized criminal networks more and more aggressive. Today, many of our wildlife rangers are involved in combat situations similar to that seen by Special Forces in armed conflicts. Illicit wildlife trade is destabilizing entire countries, and is negatively impacting the growth of national economies”. He stressed the need for “concerted action from the international community as a whole to tackle this issue”, saying that “source, transit and market countries all need to work together”, calling for the UN Secretary General “to appoint a Special Envoy for Wildlife Crime, who should be charged with spearheading a global response to this pressing issue”.
The Gabonese Ambassador to the United States, Michael Moussa-Adamo, who was present at the Clinton Global Initiative ceremony, stated that “for many years, our country has taken seriously the responsibility to preserve and protect the natural environment. Gabon's people recognize the threats that put our flora and fauna in danger – whether it is the threat of poaching or the threat of climate change, which alters the precarious balance among plants, animals, and people. We welcome this opportunity to cooperate with the Clinton Global Initiative on this significant new effort to conserve the lives and habitat of the African forest elephant.”
Prof. Lee White CBE, Executive Secretary, Gabonese National Parks Agency, Tel. +24107840063; Email: email@example.com
Joseph Mayombo, Communications officer, ANPN. Tel. +24107840015; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ref. photo library on website
11 Chinese forestry workers arrested for ivory poaching in Makokou, NE Gabon, 25 September 2013
Chinese forestry workers had been working ivory provided by local poachers. Also in picture two horns from the rare Bongo antelope and an elephant gun seized by national parks staff