Elusive Congolese Poacher Sentenced to Five Years in Jail
OUESSO, Republic of Congo (December 15, 2017) – A local court sentenced a notorious elephant poacher and ivory trafficker to five years in prison and a fine of 1,200,000 XAF (~2100 US$). The sentencing, which took place yesterday, is an indication that Congolese government is becoming increasingly serious about dealing with criminals that threaten the country’s natural heritage.
Over the last 12 years, Benjamin Mbondo, known locally as “Benz,” had garnered an infamous reputation for slaughtering elephants and trafficking illegal ivory. He was arrested on August 27th, 2017 – two weeks after a warrant for his arrest had been issued to the local police force by the Ouesso Court. Certain tip-offs alluding to his whereabouts in Ouesso allowed law enforcement from nearby Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park together with the local police force to finally locate and arrest him.
The warrant for Mbondo’s arrest was based on evidence collection and field investigations led by the Nouabale-Ndoki’s law enforcement team who documented his involvement in a recent poaching event.
Since 2007, Mbondo has been on the radar of investigators and wildlife law enforcement teams in northern Congo, but somehow continued to dodge arrest. Ten years on, his arrest is testament to improvements to wildlife law enforcement activities in the Nouabalé-Ndoki landscape, in combination with the growing will of the Congolese Government to ensure that justice is served for individuals who break national wildlife laws. - Mark Gately, Director of the WCS Congo Program
During questioning Mbondo confessed to his involvement in multiple poaching expeditions targeting the periphery of Nouabalé-Ndoki – the most recent of which had resulted in the death of two elephants and the taking of 75 kilograms of ivory. Additional information gained during questioning and subsequent investigations have led to the identification of 17 individuals within his trafficking gang and base – information that can be used to eventually dismantle his entire network.
Mbondo not only took part in hunting but also began to organize and contract hunting teams, supplying them with arms and ammunition. As he brokered deals with top-level buyers, the name Benz quickly became synonymous with illicit wildlife trade in the urban centers of northern Congo.
Said Mark Gately, Director of WCS’s Congo Program: “Since 2007, Mbondo has been on the radar of investigators and wildlife law enforcement teams in northern Congo, but somehow continued to dodge arrest. Ten years on, his arrest is testament to improvements to wildlife law enforcement activities in the Nouabalé-Ndoki landscape, in combination with the growing will of the Congolese Government to ensure that justice is served for individuals who break national wildlife laws.”
The Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, spanning 4,200 square kilometres of pristine lowland rainforest, is managed by the Nouabale-Ndoki Foundation, a public private partnership between the Congolese Government and WCS Congo Program. Operating under the Nouabale-Ndoki Foundation, Nouabale-Ndoki’s law enforcement team works to help bring wildlife criminals to justice, with support from the U.S Agency for International Development’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Save the Elephants and Wildlife Conservation Network’s Elephant Crisis Fund.