By Jeremy Hance
The Congolese Supreme Court has ordered Ghislain Ngondjo (known as Pepito) to five years in prison for slaughtering dozens of elephants for their ivory tusks. The five year sentence is the maximum in the Republic of Congo for poaching. Ngondjo was considered the "kingpin" of an elephant poaching group; in addition to killing pachyderms, Ngondjo recruited new poachers and made death threats to park rangers and staff in Odzala National Park.
"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," says James Deutsch, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Africa Program.
Conservationists have long called on governments to hand down stiffer penalties to poachers and other wildlife criminal, many of whom are released with little more than a slap on the wrist.
"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," Deutsch added.
It took several years to catch and prosecute Ngondjo, according to WCS, which worked closely with the government and African Parks Network. A partnership between WCS and the Aspinall Foundation, PALF (Project for the Application of Law for Fauna Republic of Congo), proved instrumental to the outcome. More....