Illegal trade and application of the Wildlife Law – Two ivory traffickers arrested and sentenced in Dakar (Sénégal)
June 6, 2014
It’s done. The State of Senegal has enacted a penalty (sanctioned) for the first time, for the illegal trade of protected species. The country thus is launching a battle (fight) against transnational organized crime.
On Tuesday, May 20, 2014, when two mixed operations consisting of the Division of Criminal Investigations (DIC), the Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and project SALF (Senegal Wildlife Act), two traffickers, in possession of 388 objects of elephant ivory, were arrested red-handed. The objects were mainly pieces of jewelry made of ivory.
This type of action is the first of its kind in Senegal and is a straight line to put into place a collaboration between the state and a network of international partners which are specialized in this field, the project SALF (Senegal Wildlife Act) and the network EAGLE (Eco Activist for Governance and Law Enforcement), which operates in a number of African states. Eloi Sokoto SIAKOU, a trafficker of Ivorian nationality, was arrested red-handed during the first raid in possession of a large amount of Ivory.
Then, less than an hour later the team was redeployed to carry out the arrest of the second trafficker Modou SARR, one of SAIKOU’s suppliers and part owner of the 388 ivory objects seized. After the hearing and being put into custody, they were brought before the Court of Dakar and detained until their sentencing. The value of the products seized is around six million CFA [currency used in Western Africa] in a system where a kilogram of ivory is sold at two thousand dollars on the international market.
Professionals, suspicious and well connected internationally from the Ivory Coast to France passing through the United States, they belong to a network of known dealers in illegal trade of protected species. The investigation conducted on the activities of these networks has allowed the understanding of their methods of operation and their fears of being arrested.
Elephants are fully protected in Senegal. The detention, circulation, and sale of elephant trophies are forbidden by article L. 32 of the Code of Hunting and, via the protection of wildlife law #86-04 of January 1986, offenders can be punished for up to one year in prison and a fine of 1,200,000 francs CFA. Senegal has also ratified the convention CITES called Convention of Washington, in 1977. (The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora threatened with extinction.)
A convention of the United Nations which regulates and guarantees that international trade in species listed in its annexes, as well as parts and products derived from them, does not interfere with the conservation of biodiversity and is based on a sustainable use of the species. It is necessary to salute the remarkable effort and action of the Senegalese authorities who have contributed to the success of these operations.
Thus, Senegal joins many other African countries in the active fight against this crime, and is now among the ranks of heroic countries that struggle to save the heritage of Africa.
This action has been hailed strongly by the international community and we must hope that foreign governments will continue to support Senegal in the face of this scourge. Nevertheless, contrary to what was expected of the Senegalese justice system, the Court department of Dakar imposed a relatively low (weak) penalty. The offenders were sentenced to three months in prison and a payment of 500,000 FCFA which is equal to about $1,037.00 [CFA franc is currency used in Western Africa].
It is true that there are still crimes that are poorly understood by the Senegalese Justice System. The leniency of the court is even more surprising, given that article L.32 of the code of hunting and wildlife provides penalties of up to one year in prison. Also, the case proved that the two traffickers knew perfectly well the illegal nature of their crime. Eloi SAIKOU SOKOTO declared, “The trade of ivory brings in much more money than other businesses, but I know that it is forbidden and very dangerous.”
Likewise, Modou SARR, who intentionally mentioned on his business card “Ivory Seller/Salesman.” So they chose to get involved in the smuggling of elicit goods knowingly, despite the Senegalese laws. Knowing that the wildlife law is applied strongly in other countries that they fear, they prefer to operate illegally and with impunity in the Senegalese territory. Illegal trade in endangered species is a transnational organized crime.
It is not localized poaching. It is the fourth largest trade in the world after weapons, drugs, and human trafficking according to the United Nations Congress on Crime. It represents around 19 billion dollars of profit per year worldwide. It is often the result of powerful and organized criminal networks. For several years, the killing (massacring) of elephants has intensified dramatically.
They (the killings) are large-scale at an unprecedented pace, with more sophisticated methods.
Ninety-six elephants are killed each day in Africa. This represents 35,000 elephants killed per year, solely for their ivory. Asian demand, a motive of international traffic, is the direct cause of the massive decline in the population of elephants all over Africa, and if nothing is done now, the elephant could disappear here by the year 2030. Today the compelling evidence shows that the explosion of the ivory trade undermines the stability and security of the African states because poachers and traffickers have increasingly important firepower and because this traffic is tied to terrorism, and finances wars in certain regions. The Somali terrorist group AL-Shaabab, the South Sudanese Jenjawids, and the LRA of Joseph Kony have been implicated in international ivory contraband. This trafficking is endangering ecosystems and the people who depend on them, and it also has a huge impact on the economy of tourism in Africa.
The trafficking of wildlife is a conservation problem, an economic problem, a problem of security, and a problem of health. More and more, the African state is taking this threat seriously. With images of the sub region where the same infractions are punished with the penalty of going to prison for up to fifteen years, Senegal must not be left out and should make reforms to its code. But authorities face the challenge of the fight against organized crime and must enforce the law to stop the massacre, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand.
Thank you to Nancy Skilton for volunteering to translate this one. Original article in French can be found at the following link: