Anyone who keeps up with conservation efforts around the world knows that poaching is still a major threat to species all over the planet. One of the worst areas for poaching threats is in Central Africa, where the African elephant has long been hunted for the ivory in its tusks. The government in the Republic of Congo has taken steps to reverse the trend, starting with increased punishment for poaching crimes. Recently, 4 poachers found out firsthand just how serious the penalties are.
Poachers have stepped up their game, and Central Africa has seen a major increase in poaching activity over the past several years. It’s a deadly activity for the humans involved, too. Last year alone, park rangers engaged in deadly gunfire with poachers half a dozen times in the Congo’s Nouabale-Ndoki National Park.
The courts in the area have stepped up the punishments for wildlife crimes as a result. Recently, four poachers were arrested for hunting elephants in the area. The four men were sentenced to five years in prison and about $10,000 USD each. One of the men, Leonard Beckou, is thought to have been the leader of the gang and has been arrested for poaching on two previous occasions. The most recent elephant slaughters were planned to be conducted near villages, where citizens were terrified because of the violence that often accompanies such activities. It just goes to show that poaching not only hurts the animals but the people that live in the areas.
Many still believe that the recent sentencing wasn’t harsh enough. However, the decision by the judge falls into the “one step at a time” category. It’s a good first step in protecting the animals and people in that particular part of The Congo. It’s important to note that the four poachers weren’t the only criminals brought to trial for wildlife crimes that day—their crimes were just the most severe. All of the other convicted individuals were also given the maximum sentences for their crimes. It’s clear that the authorities and judges are serious about protecting the animals in their regions.