In February 2019, a Chinese passenger was arrested at Dakar International Airport for carrying several items made of ivory in her luggage. The objects included bracelets, statuettes and a pendant.
The arrest formed part of a broader police investigation. With the support of anti-wildlife trafficking NGO, EAGLE (Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement), police officers broke up a network of ivory traffickers at Dakar’s Soumbédioune Market, which is predominantly known for selling artwork.
The police raid on the market resulted in the seizure of 391 ivory items, weighing a total of 5.5 kg, and the arrest of three traffickers. One of the traffickers had previously been sentenced, in 2016, for the same crime for three months.
A representative of the EAGLE network in Senegal told ENACT that more than 6 000 ivory items have been seized since 2013. According to the NGO, most of the ivory found in Senegal comes from Central Africa region, and particularly Gabon.
In April, three traffickers were arrested in the Western region of Kédougou. They were found to be in possession of the skins of three recently killed leopards and three antelopes. A week later, a trafficker was arrested in Colobane, a district in Dakar. In this case, the trafficker was in possession of several male and female lion heads and many lion bones.
The Senegalese hunting code, which dates back to 1986, is lenient towards criminals trafficking animal trophies. Article 32 of the code stipulates that anyone caught in possession of an animal trophy will receive a fine of between CFA120 000 and CFA1 200 000 (US$200 –US$2 000) and a prison sentence of a month to one year.
Although the primary destination of the ivory is believed to be China, a high-ranking official from the Senegalese department of national parks told ENACT that Italy is the main destination for animal skins. He explained that animal skins are sought after in that country because of the booming leather industry.
Given the recent increase in seizures of animal trophies in Senegal in recent months, the Senegalese government must urgently revise the hunting code. While the adoption of a new code would be a significant move in the fight against wildlife crime, the government should go a step further and ensure that convicted criminals receive stiff penalties and prison sentences.
Mouhamadou Kane, Researcher, ENACT project, ISS