Notorious Elephant Poacher Sentenced To 30 Years In Jail In Landmark Case
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A man dubbed the 'butcher of Nouabale Ndoki' has been sentenced to 30 years behind bars.
Notorious elephant poacher Mobanza Mobembo Gerard has had his jail term handed down at a criminal court in the Republic of Congo.
He was convicted on charges of ivory trafficking from poached elephants, the attempted murder of park rangers, possession of military weapons, and other offences.
Gerard has also been ordered to pay damages of 38 million Central African Francs (US $68,000 / £51,400 / AU $94,000) to the injured rangers.
It's the longest sentence handed down to a poacher in the country, with the previous maximum being five years due to cases often ending up in civil court.
The Wildlife Conservation Society has revealed Gerard led hunting expeditions in the Republic of Congo and could be responsible for killing up to 500 elephants since 2008.
A three-year manhunt began when a firefight broke out between Gerard and his men and park rangers at Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. Several park rangers were injured in the melee but thankfully they all survived.
Three of the poacher's men were captured and eventually gave enough information about his whereabouts that police were able to detain him.
Gerard managed to escape in 2018 just before his trial was about to take place and a new manhunt was sparked, which eventually culminated in his arrest in July last year.
The Wildlife Conservation Society has praised the Republic of Congo for delivering a harsh penalty and they hope it will send a message to other poachers that their time is up.
Dr. Emma Stokes, WCS Regional Director of Central Africa, said in a statement: "The sentencing is the culmination of more than three years of work by the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park's Wildlife Crime Unit and Anti-Poaching department.
"It is also the result of fruitful cooperation with multiple Congolese authorities, including the Ministry of Forest Economy, the Police, and District Prosecutors. Investigations had revealed that Guyvanho led a group of approximately 25 poachers that based on the number of hunts reported could have killed upwards of 500 elephants in the area since 2008.
"This unprecedented conviction in the criminal court is a major milestone in the protection of wildlife in the Republic of Congo.
"Today's sentencing sends an extremely strong message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted at the highest levels.
"We are confident that today's sentence will serve as a deterrent to would-be criminals that you will serve hard time if you break our wildlife laws and put park rangers and Congo's national security in danger."
The Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park covers around 4,000-square kilometres of dense lowland rainforest in the north of the country. It was created in 1993 and was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 2012.
There are now only around 300,000 wild elephants in the whole of Africa, compared to the million-strong population they had in the 1980s.