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Guinea police in massive ivory bust, six arrested

Friday May 25 2012

By AFP

Guinea police seized over 800 pieces of ivory, including sculptures and elephant tusks, in the capital Conakry during a raid that led to six arrests, police said Friday.

The arrests were made on May 19 and 21, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

Security forces "seized over 800 objects made with elephant ivory" including large sculptures and raw elephant tusks.

The operation was carried out by Guinean security forces along with the ministries of justice, environment, water and forests, and the Guinea Support for Law on Fauna project.

"These arrests are just the beginning. Guinean authorities intend to put an end to this trafficking which has reached uncontrolled levels," Security Minister Maramany Cisse told journalists on Thursday.

On March 28 seven suspected traffickers of protected species were arrested, a first in the country since independence in 1958, according to an environmental official.

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In that raid 80 kilos of sculpted ivory were seized as well as two panther skins valued at 38,000 euros ($47,000).

"Ivory trafficking is emptying the African continent of its elephants for a demand essentially destined for the foreign market," poaching expert Lieutenant Amara Bangoura told AFP.

Guinea is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and while ivory trafficking has been illegal in the country since 1997, it lacks the resources to police it.

According to CITES figures, only about 470,000 African elephants remain today, down from about 1.3 million in 1979, a loss primarily due to the animals being killed for ivory.