Notorious Congolese Ivory Trafficker Convicted
Government-NGO Partnership Plays Key Role
NEW YORK (July 25) —
Trafficker handed down five-year sentence
A notorious kingpin in elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Ghislain “Pepito” Ngondjo, was sentenced on July 15 to five years in jail by the Congolese Supreme Court, an extraordinary victory in the fight to save Africa’s forest elephants.
The conviction was the culmination of years of investigation by the Government of Congo assisted by PALF (Project for the Application of Law for Fauna Republic of Congo), a pioneering partnership of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Aspinall Foundation, committed to ending wildlife trafficking in Congo, along with African Parks Network who help manage the park, Odzala, in which Ngondjo operated.
The Wildlife Conservation Society congratulates the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)’s Minister of Justice and the Congolese Supreme Court for the successful prosecution and sentencing.
Ngondjo was convicted for the killing of scores of elephants and illegally selling their ivory, while recruiting new poachers and supplying them with illegal assault rifles. In addition, he made death threats against Odzala Park Ecoguards and staff.
The emotionally charged trial consisted of hours of testimony against Ngondjo by fellow poachers, some of whom testified that he persuaded them to commence poaching and provided illegal arms. PALF and APN say that he had been active in Odzala National Park and the surrounding Cuvette-Ouest region for more than a decade.
The sentencing included two other ivory criminals, one of whom was given a similar five-year sentence and the other sentenced to two years.
Three quarters of Africa’s forest elephants have been slaughtered for the illegal ivory trade over the past twelve years, according to WCS scientists, leading President Barack Obama to issue an Executive Order prioritizes the protection of elephants and conviction of commercial poachers and traffickers.
James Deutsch, Director of WCS’s Africa Program, said: “Congo is ground zero for the fight to save Africa’s forest elephants from extinction, and the arrest and successful prosecution of Pepito shows that we can win this war when governments and the NGO community work together in partnership. The Republic of Congo’s Minister of Justice and Congolese Supreme Court of the Republic of Congo and have sent a clear message that the theft and pillaging of Congo’s wildlife heritage by criminal poachers and traffickers will not be tolerated.”
The success of this operation resulted from a concerted effort between international organizations and governments. In particular, the European Union, African Parks, Wildlife Conservation Society, and PALF followed the proceedings and sent a team to ensure Congolese law was applied fairly and justly.
While the sentencing was a major victory for the Congo justice system, conservationists warn that battle is not over. Currently, PALF is working in conjunction with the Congolese government to facilitate the arrest of one of the most notorious ivory traffickers in the Congo. This international trafficker has very influential governmental connections, and thus he will not be arrested without international support.
During the last decade, 76 percent of Africa’s forest elephants were killed by poachers, with an estimated 35,000 slaughtered last year alone. WCS and other conservation partners recently met with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss ways to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stopping the demand of elephant ivory. Earlier this month, President Obama signed an Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking.
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The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.