Big boost to fight against wildlife crime in Guinea
Not any more. Last week, he was finally arrested and is now languishing in jail: facing serious charges related to the illegal trafficking of endangered species.
“This is a landmark in the fight against corruption and complicity facilitating the illegal wildlife trade”, said Charlotte Houpline, President of the GALF project in Guinea, which assisted with the operation. “We are very pleased with the strong message from the Guinean government. The vicious cycle of impunity has been broken.”
Many wildlife criminals have been arrested and convicted in recent years thanks to the dedicated work of GALF and the government.
But conservationists fear that Doumbouya – the former head of Guinea’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Management Authority as well as the current Commander of the national wildlife and forestry mobile enforcement brigade – might be able to use his power and influence to evade justice.
As he did last year when he was interrogated by the police about fraudulent CITES export permits for chimpanzees and bonobos. He claimed that they had been falsified by traffickers who forged his signature.
This time, he was arrested after a long and meticulous investigation by GALF, Interpol and the Guinean authorities, which also resulted in the detention of another alleged international trafficker, Thierno Barry, who is believed to have been exporting protected species to China and other parts of the world for years.
Problems regarding wildlife trade in Guinea have long been known – CITES recommended in 2013 that countries should reject any commercial import of CITES listed species from Guinea.
“It is rare for government officials allegedly involved in wildlife crime to be arrested and even rarer for them to face justice,” said Carlos Drews, Director WWF Global Species Unit, who sent official letters to Guinea’s Ministers of Environment and Justice.
“We welcome the arrest of Doumbouya and other efforts the Guinean authorities are taking to tackle the scourge of wildlife crime, but there is much more to do. If Doumbouya is found guilty, we hope he receives the most severe penalty possible since this will serve as a strong deterrent,” added Drews.
Doumbouya could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of the charges against him, including abuse of power and corruption.
In the past, wildlife crime was not prioritised in Guinea and was often regarded as just a minor environmental issue. But it is a serious crime that devastates not only wildlife, but also threatens peace and human security, and undermines social and economic development.
Wildlife crime has been the subject of unprecedented attention at the highest political levels in recent months, including the historic adoption in July of the first ever United Nations General Assembly resolution against wildlife trafficking. The arrest of Doumbouya shows that the Guinean government is determined to live up to its commitments.
But only an international response will be tackle the unprecedented surge in global wildlife crime – and conservationists have their sights on other ‘Doumbouyas’.
“There are many more wildlife criminals in suits and ties, not just in Africa, and we have plans in place for a few of them,” said Ofir Drori, founding director of the Eco Activistis for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE) Network.