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08/19/2013

Elephant poaching arrested for the third time. He may get away with it again

Elephant

Ivory from killed elephants makes its way to Southeast Asia due to a flourshing black market in many African countries, activists say. (AFP PHOTO/ LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHILAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI)

Here is some good news for elephant lovers: a poacher allegedly responsible for culling hundreds of pachyderms was arrested for the third time in as many years in Gabon recently.

Messimo Rodrigue was arrested on Sunday along with three accomplices. They were allegedly in possession of 10 elephant tusks weighing 93 kilograms, the chief prosecutor of Franceville, Gilbert Barangolo, where Rodrigue was arrested, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Ten tusks means five dead elephants.

“He has admitted to being an ivory trafficker,” Barangolo said in a statement. Rodrigue was arrested once in 2010 and in January this year.

But here is the bad news: even though he is a repeat offender and a major threat to elephants, he faces a measly one-year sentence if he is convicted. Or he could be fined about £26,000.

On the other hand, in the neighbouring Republic of Congo, two wildlife traffickers were sentenced to five years in jail for poaching. In that country, repeat offenders there also see their sentence double, WWF points out.

Luc Mathot, the head of the NGO Conservation Justice said he hopes that “there will be no influence peddling or attempts to corrupt the process, and that this time he is severely punished.”

There is a ban on international trade in ivory but there is a rampant black market in many African countries and ivory from killed elephants makes its way to Southeast Asia, activists say.

Africa was home to as many as 1.3 million elephants in the late 1970s but poaching has reduced the population to as few as 400,000, WWF says. More than 30,000 elephants were killed by poachers for ivory in 2012, said to be one of the worst years for the pachyderms. In the Congo basin of Africa, demand for ivory has led to the illegal killing of nearly two-thirds of forest elephants between 2002 and 2012, said a study released in February this year.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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