Wildlife law enforcement Intensifies in Cameroon

Ivory trafficker at police station in Yaounde
Ivory trafficker at police station in Yaounde

By Ntungwe Ngalame Elias

Police of the mobile intervention unit in Douala last month arrested two people with a huge quantity of ivory, pangolin scales and parts of African grey parrots.

The cargo that was loaded on a car heading for the Douala port was seized at the Bois de Singes neighbourhood and taken to the premises of the mobile intervention unit.

The suspects claimed it was pepper inside the bags but when police searched, they found pepper and then pangolin scales, ivory and parrot parts.  The haul which included, 158 ivory tusks, 19 bags of pangolin scales weighing over 1000kg, 100 parrot heads and feathers was allegedly heading to Nigerian.

One other trafficker was later arrested by police after further investigations.

According to legal procedure in dealing with wildlife crime, the matter was later handed over to the Littoral Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife that is establishing a case file with the collaboration of The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA).

The organization works closely with wildlife officials in enabling the arrest of those who offend the wildlife law. The law that governs such cases stipulates that law anyone found in possession of protected wildlife species is considered to have killed or captured the animal and faces a maximum prison sentence of 3 years.

In order to effectively apply the law that was enacted in 1994, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has been collaborating with LAGA since 2003 and this has produced hundreds of arrests.

Under the framework of this collaboration, 6 six people were arrested last month in Yaounde, Ebolwa and Bangangte for trafficking in wildlife products.

During the first operation carried out in Yoaunde Two people suspected of trafficking in ivory were arrested on October 9, by wildlife officials who were backed up by a team of police officers. The two traffickers who arrived on board a taxi, packed at a junction popularly known as Carrefour Bastos.

One them went into the bar and remerged minutes later. He then went into the taxi and collected a plastic bag which he grasped nervously and dashed straight into the bar while the rain thundered outside. As he headed into the bar, he was tracked by wildlife officials who would arrest him inside the bar while the second who waited impatiently in the taxi was also arrested moments later. Two ivory tusks were found in the plastic bag.

Another operation carried in Ebolowa resulted in the arrest of two suspected pangolin scales traffickers. The two, aged 39 and 37, who were found attempting to sell over 70kg of pangolin scales at the Mekalat neighbourhood in Ebolowa.

They carefully concealed the pangolin bags when they arrived the area but were uncovered by wildlife officials. According to sources close to the matter that spoke on condition of anonymity, the two have been doing business for a very long time with a Nigerian national who regularly bought and exported pangolin scales.

They equally had a collection of small scale traffickers scattered around villages near Djoum and Mvangan. They would go around collecting the scales and when the quantities were significant, they would sell on to a bigger trafficker. Their activity span across Gabon and Congo and had been going on for a number of years.

The third operation of the month was carried out in Bangange where a traditional notable was arrested alongside another suspect for trafficking in leopard skins. A fresh leopard skin, an older one and pangolin scales were seized during the operation.

According to a wildlife official, one of the alleged traffickers had traveled all the way from Bangolap, a few kilometers from Bangangte, on a bike with a leopard skin and pangolins scales, met the traditional notable who also had a skin.

When they were about to make business with the carefully concealed products, wildlife law enforcement officials arrived on the scene and arrested him. These operations are expected to deter traffickers from operating their illegal businesses and mitigating the killing of wildfire species for their parts.