A notorious poacher believed to have killed more than 500 elephants has been jailed for 30 years in the Republic of Congo.

Mobanza Mobembo Gerard, known as Guyvanho, was found guilty of ivory trafficking and the attempted murder of park rangers.

Since 2008, he had led poaching expeditions that sparked the deaths of hundreds of animals, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The group hailed the case as a milestone in the fight to hold wildlife criminals to account.

Two security officers at the Nouabale Ndoki national park show a gun and ivory tusks seized from poachers (AFP via Getty Images)

Gerard’s trial and sentencing last week marked the first criminal conviction of a wildlife trafficker in the central African country.

Previously, environmental crimes were tried in civil courts and incurred a maximum sentence of five years, the WCS said.

The sentence “sends an extremely strong message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted at the highest levels,” the society’s regional director Emma Stokes said in a statement on Monday.

Congolese judicial authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

The attempted murder charges against Gerard 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.

The park covers 4,000 square kilometres (1,540 sq miles) in the north of the 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.

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