News / Africa

Togo Makes First Major Ivory Trade Arrest

Ivory trafficker Emile N'Bouke stands amidst seized ivory carvings and elephant tusks while talking with journalists after his arrest, in Lome, Togo, Aug. 6, 2013.
Ivory trafficker Emile N'Bouke stands amidst seized ivory carvings and elephant tusks while talking with journalists after his arrest, in Lome, Togo, Aug. 6, 2013.
The small West African nation of Togo made its first major arrest this week in the fight against what activists say is a burgeoning illegal ivory trade. The suspect, 58-year-old Emile N’Bouke, has allegedly been active for decades in a trade that contributed to the deaths of more than 10,000 African elephants.

N’Bouke was widely known as “The Boss”. For nearly four decades, activists said, he operated out of a small shop in Togo’s capital, Lome, arranging deals with clients in Asia and potentially the United States.

That came to an end on Tuesday afternoon, when authorities arrested him at his shop in an operation that uncovered more than 700 kilograms of ivory products.

How he was caught

N’Bouke’s arrest was spurred by an investigation begun late last year by the Last Great Ape Organization, which pushes for the enforcement of wildlife laws in West and Central Africa. The organization works in six countries, including those where elephants are poached, such as Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo.

It also works in transit countries such as Togo and Guinea, where ivory is shipped to global markets.

Ofir Drori, the organization’s founder, said he is convinced that by focusing on transit countries, officials can do much to curtail the slaughter of elephants in Africa because high-profile traders are the ones who are financing poaching activities.

“We need to focus on the big traffickers, not just the small poachers. Small poachers are activated by those big traffickers, and we need to have this kind of arrest, this kind of operation, all over Africa,” he stated.


Environment Minister Dede Ekoue said Togo’s government is committed to cracking down on the illegal ivory trade. But she adds it will require “global resources,” and that it would like to partner with countries, such as the United States, that have expertise in tracking illicit shipments.

Drori said he believes the arrest of “The Boss” could lead to progress on cases against other players in the industry. “There’s already a huge amount of information that comes out of this investigation -- different bank accounts, different collaborators elsewhere. So they are doing very good work. And we’re optimistic as to what can come out of this beyond just the arrest of a big ivory trafficker,” he said.

N’Bouke claimed after his arrest that all of his work was legal, and that he had a “special permit” granted by the authorities. Although the ivory trade is banned globally, activists said the maximum penalty under Togolese law is just one year in prison.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs