Gabon Makes Huge Ivory Bust
Illegal haul was taken from about 20 elephants: government rep
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2015 12:51 PM CST
French customs workers protect themselves from fragments as about 698 elephant tusks are unloaded before being crushed into dust at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Feb. 6, 2014.   (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

(Newser) – Two Gabonese men—one of whom reportedly worked for the West African country's water and forest department—have been arrested for allegedly poaching, and a government rep tells Reuters that "We can confirm the seizure of around [440 pounds] of ivory, which represents about 20 elephants." That could make it Gabon's largest ivory seizure ever. A conservation group says the two suspects, originally from Cameroon and Nigeria, were brought in Monday on suspicion of the type of poaching activities that have placed Gabon's nearly 50,000 forest elephants in danger due to their coveted straight, hard tusks. A World Wildlife Fund VP notes that about 30,000 African elephants are killed for ivory each year, creating an "unprecedented poaching crisis."

"Ivory trade is not only robbing Africa of its elephants, it also threatens the lives and livelihoods of local communities," Ginette Hemley said earlier this year. "This illicit trade is also funding terrorist organizations, undermining US national security and the security of the region." Gabon's poaching had become so bad that the UK answered President Ali Bongo Ondimba's pleas for help over the summer by sending a dozen soldiers to work with local rangers, the BBC notes. The US has also jumped into discouraging the commercial sale of ivory on American shores: Per Time, more than a ton of poached ivory was crushed in June in Times Square to drive home the message that "we're not only crushing ivory, we're crushing the ivory market," as US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said. (One of the world's biggest elephants was killed last year for its goods.)