Dakar — A court in southeastern Cameroon is handing down verdicts against twin brothers accused of killing more than 100 elephants in Central Africa. Wildlife activists said the cases are part of a broader commitment to tackle poaching that has devastated the region's elephant population.
On Monday, a court in the southeastern Cameroon town of Yokadouma found Symphorien Sangha guilty of killing elephants and wounding a forest ranger.
A verdict in a separate case against his brother, Rene Sangha, is expected to be handed down on Friday.
Together, the two men are believed to be responsible for killing more than 100 elephants in the region dating back to 2006. They face sentences of up to three years, and Symphorien Sangha faces 10 additional years for assaulting the forest ranger.
Both men have previously been arrested multiple times but this appears to be the first time they will be successfully prosecuted.
The World Wide Fund for Nature said the brothers - both originally from the Central African Republic - sometimes collaborated in their poaching activities.
Alain Ononino, head of WWF's law enforcement program in Cameroon, said that while Rene Sangha worked as a forest ranger in the C.A.R., he is believed to have provided information that helped his brother evade the authorities.
Ononino said these types of prosecutions can help curtail poaching, which has killed many thousands of elephants in the region dating back to the 1970s and has continued even after the global ivory trade was banned in 1989. "Poachers will be deterred, and this is going to reduce the threat and the pressure on wildlife species, especially elephants," he said.
WWF said these cases are an example of how regional governments are increasingly working together to crack down on poaching. One of the key witnesses was an official from the Central African Republic who travelled to Cameroon multiple times to provide testimony.
The two brothers operated in the Sangha Trinational site in the Congo Basin, which includes land from Cameroon, Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. UNESCO added Sangha Trinational to its list of World Heritage sites in July 2012.