LIBREVILLE — Police detained two major ivory traffickers in the Central African Republic as a part of a joint operation with animal rights activists, two groups announced Monday.
The arrests were the first of their kind in the African nation since it passed a wildlife protection law in the 1980s, said Ofir Drori, director of the Cameroon-based group The Last Great Ape which announced the arrests with the World Wildlife Fund.
One woman had 157 ivory objects weighing more than 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) in her home in Bangui, the groups said in a statement.
The other trafficker was detained in a Bangui hotel Friday as he was "trying to sell 14 ivory objects, hippopotamus teeth and a panther skin," said the statement.
The two could face up to a year in jail if found guilty.
"They had several decades of experience between them and were said to be at the centre of an international ivory trafficking network," the statement said.
Illegal poaching threatens the elephant with extinction, animal protection groups say, despite the ivory trade being banned by a 1989 international agreement.
Experts say some 38,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks.
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