Life in Africa can be harsh and brutal. It’s even harsher if you’re an elephant trying to escape a poacher. Poaching is considered easy money for criminals and high-ranking kingpins. However, getting caught means either imprisonment or death, depending on where you are and who catches you. With risks like that, why would anyone do such a thing? Taking another animal’s life, just for money, is both cruel and some would say evil. Thankfully, some of those evil people eventually are found and tried in court.
For over a decade, the Republic of Congo had been trying to locate a notorious elephant poacher and ivory trafficker. Since 2008, Mobanza Mobembo Gerard, known as Guyvanho, led poaching expeditions in the Congo. It is believed that he may have killed over 500 elephants and used approximately 25 different teams to do help him do his dirty work.
The Congolese forests are dense and full of wildlife. These forests are the home of some of the rarest elephants in the world, and unfortunately, many of them were killed by this awful poacher. In fact, this specific species of forest elephants were only confirmed to be a separate species from the larger African savannah elephant in 2010.
Infamous Poacher Gets Sentenced
“On 31st May 2019 a ranger patrol returning to Park HQ happened across a group of poachers – including Guyvanho – returning from a hunt. The patrol was fired upon by the poachers, resulting in the wounding of two patrol members (one of whom was seriously wounded and whose life was saved by the medical training of other rangers),” reports the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Believe it or not, poaching is not considered a criminal offense in the Congo. Normally seen as an environmental offense. Therefore, these kinds of cases are usually held in a civil court and tried accordingly. However, the charges against Guyvanho were a first of their kind. The criminal court charged and convicted the poacher of attempted murder of park rangers and trafficking elephant ivory. When the verdict came in, it made Guyvanho the first wildlife trafficker convicted in the Criminal Court in the Republic of Congo.
“This unprecedented conviction in the criminal court is a major milestone in the protection of wildlife in the Republic of Congo. Previously, all environmental crimes were tried in the civil courts where the maximum penalty under the wildlife law was five years,” Dr. Emma Stokes, WCS Regional Director of Central Africa, said in a statement.
Guyvanho was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and it’s unclear how long his cohorts will end up serving. He was also required to pay damages of 38 million Central African Francs (~USD 68,000) to the injured rangers.
Here’s hoping that more convictions like this start to happen.
- There are as few as 3 200 tigers left in the wild.
- Rhino poaching in South Africa increased from 13 rhinos in 2007 to 1,215 rhinos in 2014.
- Poachers kill nearly 30,000 elephants each year.
- The most trafficked mammal is the pangolin.
- Protecting wildlife is dangerous. Every year, approximately 100 wildlife rangers die on the job.
You can always help contribute to wildlife conservation. Either by donating or by volunteering your time. Check out your local national parks for more information.
Keep Reading: When Animals Fight Back, The Hunters Become The Hunted.
- “WCS Commends Congolese Justice System on 30-Year Sentence of Notorious Elephant Poacher and Ivory Trafficker in Republic of Congo.” WCS Newsroom. August 24, 2020.
- “Congo elephant poacher jailed for 30 years; landmark case hailed.” Reuters. Reuters Staff. August 25, 2020.
- “Elephant poacher who killed more than 500 of the animals is sentenced to 30 years’ hard labour in the Congo Republic.” DailyMail. Ross Ibbetson. August 26, 2020.
- “5 Wildlife poaching facts that will leave you cold.” News24. Selene Brophy. November 4,2015.