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Ivory smuggler Emile N'Bouke, known as 'The Boss,' arrested in Togo


Thai Customs Department officials inspect seized elephant tusks ahead of a news briefing in Bangkok on April 1, 2011.



Authorities in Togo announced the arrest Wednesday of a high-profile ivory smuggler — the first capture of its kind in the small West African nation.

Emile N'Bouke was detained Tuesday afternoon when an anti-trafficking squad found 1,500 pounds of ivory in his shop in Lome, according to the BBC.

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The 58-year-old is known locally as "The Boss" because of his stature in the ivory trade.

Activists told The Associated Press his work has fueled the massacre of more than 10,000 elephants dating back to the 1970s.

Ivory trading was banned globally in 1989.

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Togo has recently become a transit point for ivory dealers trying to avoid other West African ports, where access is more difficult.

Speaking to reporters from the anti-trafficking squad headquarters, N'Bouke denied any involvement in ivory smuggling and said he dealt only in bone ornaments.

He is expected to appear in court next week.

The illegal ivory trade is mostly fueled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used to make ornaments and in traditional medicine.

Africa is now home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching as well as a rising human population causing habitat loss.

Togo has only 60 elephants living in protected national parks.