The last remaining elephants in West and Central Africa
Elephants across Africa are at high risk from poaching. But the elephant populations in West and Central Africa are particularly vulnerable to the threat of extinction, as their herds are mostly small, fragmented and isolated.
The criminal networks behind this trade hunt far and wide across a vast swathe of the rainforest, posing a deadly and sustained threat to elephants.
All roads lead to Nigeria
In recent years, Nigeria has emerged as the primary exit point for ivory being trafficked from Africa to Asia.
Criminal syndicates have exploited the country’s weak governance, endemic corruption and porous borders to transport ivory from neighbouring countries through Nigeria to key markets such as Vietnam.
This is not Nigeria’s problem alone; the sheer scale and volume of the illegal wildlife trade flowing through Nigeria is an issue for all countries in West and Central Africa and beyond.
Elephant numbers in dramatic decline
- In the past decade, around 30% of Gabon’s elephants have been killed, with up to a dozen elephants shot by poachers every day
- Cameroon’s forest elephant population suffered a 70% decline between 2010 and 2015
- A 2017 aerial survey suggests that the northern elephant population of the Central African Republic may be locally extinct.
Ivory trafficking continues despite Covid-19 restrictions
Global lockdowns have disrupted international travel since the Covid-19 outbreak, but the illegal wildlife trade continues regardless.
- In October 2020, Cameroon customs seized 118 elephant tusks smuggled from neighbouring Gabon.
- In January 2021, Nigerian customs officials intercepted a vast shipment of wildlife contraband destined for Vietnam, including 57 sacks of ivory.
Wildlife criminals working from home
Both buyers and sellers have been working from home during the pandemic, determined to find new ways to circumvent restrictions.
Before lockdown, it was rare for traffickers in Africa to sell to Vietnamese or Chinese buyers without meeting face-to-face. However, now that travel is curtailed, traders are increasingly prepared to strike deals through remote communication, pursuing profit despite the additional risk involved.
Undercover investigations reveal traffickers’ secrets
In 2017, our report, The Shuidong Connection, showed that criminal syndicates were shifting their ivory trafficking operations from East Africa to West Africa. Following our investigations, two major ivory trafficking syndicates in China were dismantled.
Thanks to your support, our undercover investigators have followed the trail of traffickers to West Africa, revealing vital intelligence that exposes their networks and methods.
We know that traffickers move ivory and other illegal wildlife products from Africa to Asia by smuggling them onto commercial ships and aircraft. So we’re also engaging with shipping companies and other private transport operators to do more to stop their services from being used in this way.
Turning the tide against wildlife crime
We’re now sharing our expertise with government agencies in West and Central Africa.
During the pandemic, we facilitated a series of virtual meetings between different government agencies involved in wildlife crime. For the first time, these agencies shared information that will help crack down on wildlife trafficking.
In Nigeria, we have carried out an analysis of existing laws to identify the gaps that are allowing wildlife criminals to evade justice. We’re doing this to encourage the Nigerian judiciary to use the law to its full extent so that it acts as a strong deterrent to would-be traffickers.
EIA has over 35 years’ experience of tackling ivory trafficking in Africa. This makes us uniquely placed to help governments in West and Central Africa to deal with the criminality and corruption that is driving elephants towards extinction.
The last remaining elephant populations of West and Central Africa are under severe attack by organised crime networks. Please donate today to help us tackle wildlife crime and save endangered species.
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