investigation leads to 70 kg ivory seizure
On the 27th of January 2017 seventy kilograms of ivory was seized near a residential home in Ouesso, northern Congo. The group responsible for obtaining and selling the ivory is an ivory trafficking network that has been closely followed by WCS’s Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU) since September 2016, when four members of the network were arrested following collaboration between the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) and the WCU. The network leader, alias ‘Daring’, escaped this initial arrest and his second in charge, Abraham, was released from jail after his court hearing and placed under house arrest.
WCU investigators have been keeping the members of this network under close surveillance since the arrests in September, when the network was substantially weakened, but not yet dismantled. In January, the WCU gained information that Daring, the head of the network, and Abraham had headed south of Ouesso to the periphery of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, to hunt elephants. The two returned empty handed after two weeks, but a few days later hired a taxi and headed south again.
Over the last decade central Africa has lost 60% of its elephants; a staggering loss owed mainly to the unrelenting ivory trade. The forests of northern Republic of Congo harbor one fifth of the global population of forest elephants perhaps represent a bastion of hope for these giants.
Through continued surveillance the WCU were notified of the delivery of a large package to Abraham’s house. The next day several cars stopped outside the house, the passengers went into the house and then left. One West African man in a private car spent several hours in the house on the morning of the 27th and then returned later in the afternoon and an ivory deal seemed imminent.
The WCU seized this moment to act after a long wait to try to take down this network. The Police were called in and searched the houses, together with members of the Ministry of Environment. The search resulted in the discovery of a stash of 70 kilograms of ivory in a nearby construction site.
Now a manhunt for the two key members of this network is underway. With this evidence against these two traffickers the WCU can build a strong case against them if they are caught, and since these groups are closely watched the two suspects are likely to be arrested soon. Daring is known to have been operating as a poacher and trafficker in northern Congo for over five years through the arrest of a large scale Chadian trafficker in 2011 who was proven to be purchasing ivory from his network. If the head of the Daring ring, and the majority of his network are put behind bars, this long-standing network might finally be dismantled.