Arrests made as Cameroon elephant poaching crisis spreads
The anti-poaching operation comes just weeks after the Cameroon military entered a national park in the North Region of the country where poachers have slaughtered hundreds of elephants since January. Up to 12,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory, most in Central Africa.
In southeast Cameroon, rangers confiscated six firearms and 30kg of elephant meat in the joint anti-poaching operation that involved rangers from both national parks. Two other suspects are said to be on the run. The confiscated tusks are being kept under seal while the detained suspects await trial.
Constant threatThe adjoining national parks of Boumba-Bek and Nki are home an estimated 4,000 forest elephants according to a 2006 survey carried out by WWF. But elephants in these protected areas are under constant pressure from poachers from within Cameroon as well as from neighbouring Congo Brazzaville.
Achille Mengamenya, Park Warden of Boumba-Bek, says the poaching suspects have been operating in the area for a year and have evaded arrest several times in the past. “Preliminary investigations show this group of poachers has very strong links with a sister group based in Souanke, Congo Brazzaville. But they poach elephants mostly in Nki National Park,” Achille said.
“With the connivance of some local people ivory is surreptitiously transported through the towns of Messok and Lomie in the East Region of Cameroon to Douala,” the park warden said. “Four poachers, who were arrested in December 2011 with 44 ivory tusks near Lobéké National Park, also attested to having links with accomplices in Souanke. It is clear that the fight against poaching in the border areas between Cameroon, Congo and Central African Republic has to be stepped up to save what is left of elephants in the region.”
International linksThose suspected of killing hundreds of elephants in North Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park are believed to be foreigners who entered the country illegally across its border with Chad. Following that incident, WWF urged the Cameroon government to secure its borders, reinforce anti-poaching efforts, and ensure that suspects are tried and punished according to the law.
“After the international outcry of the Bouba N’Djida massacre it is time to put a stop to this senseless commercially motivated slaughter of Africa’s biodiversity,” says David Hoyle, Conservation Director for WWF Cameroon.
“Back in 2010, Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International, wrote a letter to the prime minister of Cameroon, drawing attention to the upsurge of elephant poaching using war arms in Southeast Cameroon,” said Natasha Kofoworola Quist, WWF's Central African Regional Programme Office Representative. “The recent gruesome massacre of elephants in Bouba N’Djida in the north of the country in the space of two months shows the rapidity in the decimation of elephant population in Cameroon.”
Global response“We hope to see stronger local and regional approaches and collaborative platforms to combat wildlife poaching and ivory trafficking in Central Africa. WWF is urging all participants who will be attending the Regional Workshop on Wildlife Trafficking and Dismantling Transnational Illicit Networks billed for Libreville, Gabon on April 3-5 to come out with concrete and realistic resolutions that could be implemented immediately to halt the carnage,” Kofoworola Quist said.
In a letter to Cameroon President Paul Biya, European Parliament member Catherine Bearder highlighted the severity and scope of ivory poaching and offered the assistance of the European Union. "It is clear that illegal wildlife trade is not a small scale, local issue, but a major, organised transnational crime that threatens not only Africa's wildlife, but the security of its borders, its people and its reputation," Bearder wrote. "It is important to engage with the Heads of State in Chad and Sudan to launch a full response to this issue that will reassure the global community that these trans-national criminal acts are taken seriously," she said.
WWF has been providing critical support to Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to combat poaching, especially ivory trafficking, in the southeast of the country for over 12 years. Logistics and financial support have been provided to hire, equip and train rangers, while buttressing field anti-poaching operations.