WWF welcomes Central African clampdown on smugglers



Posted on 05 December 2010  | 
Yaoundé, Cameroon – An operation by special police forces earlier this week in Central African Republic (CAR) led to the arrest of an important wildlife smuggler and seizure of elephant tusks and cat skins.
 
This comes amidst a series of similar successful operations in Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo. WWF applauds these efforts as they give a clear warning to wildlife traffickers in the region.
 
The RALF (French acronym for Strengthening of the Wildlife Law Enforcement) project aims to increase wildlife law enforcement activities and judiciary follow-up of wildlife crimes in the CAR, targeting mainly high-level wildlife traffickers. It works closely with the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior.
 
“This shows how successful wildlife law enforcement activities can be when they are supported at the highest level,” said Jean-Bernard Yarissem, WWF Country Director in CAR. “Collaboration between CAR’s authorities and WWF’s RALF project are paying off.”
 
Two elephant tusks, five panther and two lion skins were seized in the operation staged on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. They were hidden under a pile of cow skins in a truck.
 
The smuggler – a CAR citizen working within an international network – was en route to Nigeria when he was arrested at a checkpoint some 25 kilometers outside Bangui. He will be prosecuted soon. Judicial authorities in CAR’s capital provided full support to the operation.   

Last week, the Cameroonian Ministry of forestry and wildlife assisted by police and The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), which fights for wildlife law enforcement in Cameroon and the rest of Central Africa, arrested three traffickers with 17 turtle shells in two different operations. In Gabon, 16 ivory smugglers were caught with more than 100 kilos of ivory. All are in jail, awaiting trial.

Another dealer was arrested with 30 kilos of ivory in the Republic of Congo, and should be prosecuted.

“We are really moving a step forward as regional wildlife law enforcement is becoming a reality in Central Africa,” said Alain Ononino, Head of Legal Department at the Last Grape Ape (LAGA).
African forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis); Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey Enlarge
Game rangers from Cameroon, Central African Republic and Republic of Congo on a joint patrol to track down poachers along the Sangha River.
© WWF CARPO / Peter Ngea Enlarge

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