A conservation group says authorities in Congo have dismantled a major ivory smuggling network, arresting three traffickers in a blow to poaching operations that threaten the survival of the African forest elephant.

WWF said in a statement Friday that the three suspects were arrested Feb. 4 and that 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of ivory ornaments and other items were seized.

Congo is home to two-thirds of the remaining population of African forest elephants, according to WWF. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year to fuel the illegal ivory trade.

Alain Ononino, policy head for WWF's initiative against wildlife crime in Central Africa, said the latest arrests are "an important step" in saving the elephants and called on Congo to close local ivory markets and increase anti-poaching operations.