Weak ivory trafficking penalty strengthened on appeal
The judgment comes three months after a lower court sentenced the same suspects to just 30 days in jail term and a fine of less than FCFA 5 million. The ruling sparked a wave of condemnation from members of the international community, including WWF and LAGA, prompting Cameroon’s wildlife ministry to lodge an appeal.
The four defendants were arrested by forest rangers on routine patrol near Cameroon's Lobéké National Park in December. When rangers searched their truck they discovered 44 elephant tusks hidden between bags of cocoa.
This appeal court ruling comes just weeks after another court sentenced 17 wildlife traffickers to 30 month jail terms and fines of FCFA 77 million (US$ 160,000) in a separate case.
“This court judgment, though passed in the absence of the accused, is a demonstration that the judiciary is able to uphold Cameroon’s wildlife laws,” said David Hoyle, WWF-Cameroon Conservation Director.
Alain Bernard, Head of Legal Department for the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), says:
“The court of appeal made a better application of the wildlife law than the first judge notably by considering section 158 of the 1994 wildlife law which provides penalties of 1 to 3 years imprisonment term for killing of a totally protected species, including elephants, while section 101 states that whoever is found with part of a protected species such as ivory is reported to have killed the animal as it was the case in this matter.”