A notorious poacher thought to have killed up to 500 elephants has been sentenced to 30 years’ hard labour.
Mobanza Mobembo Gerard, known as Guyvanho, was also convicted of the attempted murder of park rangers in the Congo Republic.
Guyvanho was found guilty of ivory trafficking in a case hailed as a milestone by wildlife charities.
His trial and sentencing last week marked the first criminal conviction of a wildlife trafficker in the central African country.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said that such crimes would previously have been tried in civil courts and carried a maximum sentence of five years.
The sentence “sends an extremely strong message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted at the highest levels,” WCS regional director Emma Stokes said in a statement on Monday.
The attempted murder charges against Guyvanho were connected to a 2019 incident when his poacher group allegedly fired at and wounded members of a ranger patrol in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, WCS said.
The park covers 4,000 square kilometers (1,540 sq miles) of northern Congo Republic.
Its dense lowland rainforest has been a refuge for the region’s rare forest elephants, which were only confirmed to be a separate species from the larger African savannah elephant in 2010.