Law enforcement improvements lead to hundreds of poaching arrests in Cameroon

Posted on 05 July 2011    
Ranger holding seized ivory with seized guns in background, outside WWF office in Yokadouma, East province, Cameroon.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
Law enforcement efforts in Southeast Cameroon supported by WWF have resulted in the arrest 576 suspected poachers between fall 2010 and spring 2011, according to statistics gathered by WWF project teams. Game guards and law enforcement officials also seized nearly 50 elephant tusks from poachers in the area’s three national parks during that period.

In addition, officials also seized guns, ammunition and machetes along with over 5000 snares used to entrap wildlife. A gorilla skin, elephant and gorilla meat, as well as the carcases of monkeys and other animals were also discovered. Nearly 100 poaching camps were destroyed.

“I offer congratulations to Cameroon’s anti-poaching units, as well as to the WWF project team,” said Lamine Sebogo, WWF’s African Elephant Programme Coordinator. “These kinds of successful operations show positive signs and give the hope that poaching can be significantly reduced in Central Africa.”

Law enforcement operations revealed that poachers and wildlife traffickers have adopted cutting edge technologies, such as satellite phones, to avoid detection and arrest. Organized criminal syndicates are also recruiting and arming economically disadvantaged individuals to carry out poaching activities for cash payment.

Increased inter-agency coordination, the implementation of informant networks, and the use of road blocks and check points has led to the interception of suspected poachers. During the period, one poacher was convicted and sentenced to ten months imprisonment, while the others arrested are still awaiting trial.

In a setback, five poachers detained for trafficking ivory 20 tusks were released on bail despite their earlier attempts at bribing officials.

“We oppose the granting of bail to poaching suspects due to the gravity of their crimes and their high flight risk,” Sebogo says. “Suspects at large continue to pose a threat to elephants and can cause delays to judicial proceedings.”

To ensure thorough investigations and rigorous prosecutions of wildlife criminals in Central Africa, WWF supports the work of the Last Great Ape Organization and its sister organizations who create accountability by monitoring the progress of wildlife cases through the legal system. The organizations also work with rangers and law enforcement officials who putting their lives on the line in the field to assure that the crime scene evidence they collect is sufficient to secure court convictions.

The lack of field equipment for eco-guards remains a challenge to the implementation of anti-poaching operations. Basic items like handcuffs, rucksacks and raincoats can be difficult for authorities to obtain.

WWF is providing financial and technical assistance to governments in Central Africa to help curb the current escalation in poaching, which is impacting elephants and great apes. Assistance is being provided in the field through the provision of equipment and the facilitation of trainings for wildlife officers and prosecutors.

At the policy level, WWF is currently providing technical and financial support to COMIFAC, the Central African Forest Commission, as it develops a regional wildlife law enforcement plan that will enable deeper cooperation between countries.

Ranger holding seized ivory with seized guns in background, outside WWF office in Yokadouma, East province, Cameroon.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK Enlarge

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