Fugitive ivory traffickers captured in Cameroon
The men are among five people arrested in February for attempting to smuggle 20 ivory tusks from Congo Brazzaville into Cameroon. The tusks were hidden in a truck transporting 300 bags of cocoa.
After a seven-month long judicial process, the men were convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment. Three of the five had skipped bail and were sentenced in abstentia.
Albert Mounga Abana, Lobéké National Park Conservator, suspects the traffickers had fled from the periphery of Nki National Park, where they were wanted for crimes, to safer havens around Lobéké.
“We suspect they were carrying out ivory trafficking around Lobéké after fleeing from Nki,” Mounga said.
According to Zachary Nzooh, WWF Project Manager for Lobéké, the arrest shows that ivory traffickers remain dynamic. “They do not seem to stay on one spot. They crisscross the southeast of Cameroon wreaking havoc on elephants,” he said.
Taking into consideration the gravity of the group’s crimes, conservation organizations were disappointed with the six-month sentences and were hoping for more severe sanctions.
“We were appalled by the leniency of the court,” declared David Hoyle, Conservation Director for WWF in Cameroon. “Whilst WWF is happy that the court has ruled in this matter, the sentences handed down are, to say the least, very soft, especially as the suspects had allegedly attempted to bribe their way out,” Hoyle said. “But it is great news that they are now safely behind bars – thanks to efforts of Cameroon Ministry of Forest.”