Posted on 05 October 2017
From bracelets to artefacts and souvenirs, Kinshasa’s largest illegal ivory market had it all. But not anymore.
Wenze ya Bikeko is infamous across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the haven for illegal ivory products. From bracelets to artefacts and souvenirs, Kinshasa’s largest illegal ivory market had it all. But not anymore.
On World Elephant Day in August, a team of experts from WWF and other organizations such as The Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), USAID, TRAFFIC, EU, the German Cooperation, JURISTRALE, WCS & AWF visited Wenze ya Bikeko to find no traces of ivory items or illegal trade, once booming in the area. Months of raids funded by USAID and diligent law enforcement is starting to yield results – good news especially for the country’s declining elephant population.
"DRC elephants are not very well known, but there is evidence that this population is under severe pressure due to poaching and this can have serious consequences not only on this population but also on its entire habitat,” explains N’Lemvo, ICCN Director.
Since early 2014, when DRC adopted law N° 14/003 prohibiting poaching, detention and marketing of fully protected species as well as their products and by-products specifically, the General Public Prosecutor’s office has engaged in several efforts to crack down on ivory poaching.
Between 2015 and 2016, 590.8 kg of ivory was seized and about 15 people arrested for ivory trafficking. In addition, DRC has also made significant strides toward developing and implementing a national action plan for ivory (PANI) since March 2015 which focuses on strengthening efforts against elephant poaching and illegal trafficking of ivory.
“It is encouraging to see the steps being taken by DRC - the government, international donors, and civil society – to protect our elephant species from the devastating impacts of poaching,”, says Jean-Claude Muhindo, WWF-DRC Country Director. “Wildlife crime takes a heavy toll on wildlife, forests and the communities that depend on them and we need to act together now to tackle it, locally and at a global level.”
Illegal trade in wildlife, including timber and fish comprises the fourth largest global illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting of products and currency, and human trafficking, and is estimated to be worth at least US$19 billion per year.