Information provided by: WARA Conservation Project
In Senegal a crackdown resulted in the arrest of five traffickers with a load of about 2 600 skins and animal parts, highlighting the illegal trade in lions with remains of 12 lions seized. The two back-to-back sting operations were carried by The Senegalese Ministry of Environment and the Police in collaboration with the wildlife law enforcement NGO WARA.
WARA’s anti-trafficking project SALF, has started a series of raids against wildlife criminals in the West African country. The focus of the crackdown has been a large scale international trafficking supply centre in Dakar, illegally importing skins from Niger, Mali, Congo, Kenya and other African countries and exporting to Lebanon and Europe, as well as supplying local sellers. SALF’s undercover investigation identified some of the key players in this specialised trade, indicating a surprising amount of contraband trafficked internationally.
About 2 600 skins and wildlife parts were seized including anything from hyena skins to leopard skin, from python skins to bats’ heads – an impressive collection representing a colossal massacre of wildlife across Africa.
Captain Abba Sonko, The Senegal Management Authority of the UN Convention on Illegal Trade in Fauna and Flora Species (CITES) says, “The department of wildlife of Senegal, as a focal point of the CITES convention has resolved to engage in the fight against wildlife crime that dramatically erodes our biodiversity.”
But most shocking was the find of lion canine teeth and skins testifying of at least 12 killed lions. Undercover investigations point on many more lion skins that were on their way to the trafficking centre. This operation highlights the plight of the lions, and the illegal trade that is a driver to their extinction.
Lions are close to extinction in West Africa with research estimating a population number of 250. Population of the African lion has shrunk to a mere 4% of the population in the 1940s with the rate of decline in lion numbers accelerating. Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Congo are the latest African countries added to long list that have lost all their lions, and Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda predict local extinctions in the next ten years. Besides the illegal trade, trophy hunting is a highly significant and immediately preventable source of mortality. The CITES Trade Database lists a total of 6 652 lion trophies exported between 2000-2009 .
“The effect of the illegal trade on lions population in Africa is underestimated, as its consequences of imminent extinction” says Charlotte Houpline, the head of WARA, “our undercover investigations over several years in several west African countries point to a specialised criminal activity decimating the last remaining lions in the region and endangering lions across the continent. We are losing the battle for the African lion”