Officials in Cameroon trained in wildlife law
Over 50 participants from Cameroon’s judiciary, law enforcement bodies, and the Forestry and Wildlife Ministry have received training in the application of wildlife law and the prosecution of poachers at a workshop organized by WWF.
The training took place in the East Region of Cameroon, an elephant poaching and ivory trade hotspot in the country, and included actors from both the East and South regions where the anti-poaching fight has recently been intense.
The workshop was initiated and funded by WWF’s African Elephant Programme in collaboration with the bush meat programme of WWF-Cameroon and with the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), whose staff provided the expert training.
The workshop was inspired by weaknesses in the judicial pursuit of suspected wildlife criminals in Cameroon. This has resulted in the poor application of the law, resulting in an increase in poaching within and around national parks.
“Even though there has been much effort at the institutional level, this is not reflected amongst actors on the ground charged with reporting and engaging proceedings against wildlife crimes,” said David Hoyle, Conservation Director of WWF-Cameroon.
“Consequently, anti-poaching effort has not had expected impact because it is limited sometimes to repression which entails seizures without proper judicial proceedings against traffickers,” Hoyle said.
According to Lamine Sebogo, WWF’s African Elephant Programme Coordinator, these kinds of trainings have been initiated to bolster the judiciary skills of law enforcement officers. Similar workshops are also being planned for Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville.
In addition to building capacity, the workshops allow a genuine interaction between regional persecutors, wildlife officers, gendarmerie, eco-guards, police and others involved in wildlife crime cases. The meetings provide an opportunity for participants to share their concerns and their strategic thinking on how to efficiently collaborate to arrest, persecute and sentence wildlife criminals.
Participants were taught investigation techniques and briefed on judicial procedures. Exercises on how to write reports on wildlife offences, the proper method for forwarding case files to the justice department, and the follow up of poaching-related matters were also covered.
During the workshop participants highlighted the challenges of the social and economic contexts in which they operate. They observed that traditional rites, the lack of alternative sources of livelihoods, and poverty make it extremely difficult for them to carry out their duties.
“We should temper justice with humanism,” said one member of the judiciary. “How do you arrest a mother with a paper strapped on her back struggling to sell bush meat to feed her family and put her in jail?”
“How do you expect a poorly paid, poorly equipped game ranger to properly do their job?” asked a park warden.
Participants requested clarification of the roles of various actors, additional logistical support, and better information sharing.
WWF and LAGA provide technical and scientific expertise to authorities in the region to support the conservation of elephants, great apes and their forest habitats.