Congo elephant poacher jailed for 30 years; landmark case hailed

Between 2012 and 2019, Zimbabwe has exported more than 140 juvenile elephants ranging in age from under two years to seven years, almost all destined for Chinese tourist venues. (Photo: EPA / AP Pool Themba Hadebe)

BRAZZAVILLE, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Congo Republic jailed a notorious poacher for 30 years for ivory trafficking and the attempted murder of park rangers, a conservation group said, hailing the case as a milestone in the fight to hold wildlife criminals to account.

Mobanza Mobembo Gerard, known as Guyvanho, led poaching expeditions in the central African country that may have killed over 500 elephants since around 2008, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

His trial and sentencing last week marked the first criminal conviction of a wildlife trafficker in Congo Republic. Previously, environmental crimes were tried in civil courts and incurred a maximum sentence of five years, it said.

The sentence “sends an extremely strong message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted at the highest levels,” WCS regional director Emma Stokes said in a statement on Monday.

Congolese judicial authorities could immediately be reached for comment.

The attempted murder charges against Guyvanho were connected to a 2019 incident when his poacher group allegedly fired at and wounded members of a ranger patrol in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, WCS said.

The park covers 4,000 square kilometers (1,540 sq miles) of northern Congo Republic. Its dense lowland rainforest has been a refuge for the region’s rare forest elephants, which were only confirmed to be a separate species from the larger African savannah elephant in 2010. (Reporting by Christian Elion Writing by Alessandra Prentice; editing by John Stonestreet)


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