Court Slams half a million dollar fine on ivory traffickers
The two convicts, Zakary Daouda and Aboubakar Hibrahim, were also sentenced to three and four month jail terms respectively. A third suspect was acquitted. Should the convicts fail to pay the FCFA 253 million fine to Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, the court warned, they will serve five years imprisonment each.
The ivory traffickers were arrested by customs officers in March 2017 in Bertoua, the chief town of the East Region of Cameroon while transporting 159 elephant tusks. The tusks were stocked in a metallic seal and concealed in the back booth of a car. Said to be coming from the town of Djoum in the South Region of Cameroon, the suspects revealed the tusks were headed for the north of the country, from where they would have been probably smuggled through neighbouring Nigeria.
“This ruling demonstrates the will of the Cameroon justice department to severely punish wildlife criminals,” says Alain Bernard Ononino, coordinator of the wildlife crime programme for WWF in Central Africa. “This sends a signal to ivory traffickers and other potential wildlife criminals on the risk they face for committing such a crime,” he said. WWF provided legal support to Cameroon’s wildlife ministry all through the proceedings.
Hard-hit by elephant poachingCameroon, like other countries in Central Africa, is hard-hit by elephant poaching. In the last ten years (2006 to 2016) the country lost about 75% per cent of its elephants in some protected areas in the east region, according to a WWF wildlife census published in 2016. The country is used both as a source and transit for smuggling of elephant tusks coming from Central African Republic, Gabon and Congo Republic. Some 300 elephant tusks were seized from poachers in different parts of Cameroon in 2016.
According to Cameroon's wildlife law, any person found, at any time or any place, in possession of part of a protected animal including elephant tusks shall be considered to have killed the animal. The maximum penalties for the killing of a protected animal like an elephant are three years’ imprisonment and/or ten million francs CFA. Last year more than 100 people were prosecuted for poaching related offences. Despite the numerous convictions of ivory traffickers, elephant poaching remains alarmingly high due to high demand and price of ivory in black markets in Southeast Asia.