Suspects arrested for trafficking 44 ivory tusks
The seizure was conducted Monday near Lobéké National Park in Southeast Cameroon, close to the country’s borders with Congo and Central African Republic. Cameroon has increased law enforcement in the area around Lobéké and Nki National Parks recently in response to high levels of elephant poaching and ivory trade.
“This is the second time this year that large amount of ivory tusks has been discovered on trucks transporting cocoa,” said Nzooh Zacharie, WWF’s project manager in Lobéké. “In February a truck transporting 300 bags of cocoa and 20 ivory tusks was impounded in Ntam, southwest of Nki National Park.” The perpetrators in that case were sentenced to six months in prison, although one remains at large after skipping bail.
This new seizure is as an opportunity for the judiciary to mete out severe sanctions against the suspects, which can serve as a deterrent to others. The four suspects are being detained pending trail.
“We believe ivory trafficking would be significantly reduced if Cameroon’s judiciary applies sanctions as laid down by the law,” said David Hoyle, WWF Cameroon Conservation Director. “The soft sentences so far handed out to poachers by the courts have not helped the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife's efforts to deter poachers.”
The seizure brings to about 100 the number of ivory tusks confiscated this year from poachers around Lobéké and Nki parks. Some 65 people have been detained since January on ivory trafficking and other poaching related charges.
On September 1, rangers supported by the Cameroon rapid intervention brigade captured a notorious poacher who allegedly confessed to having killed more than 70 elephants in the area.
Lobéké park warden Mounga Albert Abana says this anti-poaching push will boost the morale of game rangers who were extremely demoralized following the murder of their colleague Achille Zomedel by poachers on September 27.
“We are more than ever determined to crack this vicious network of poachers who have been decimating elephants in the region,” Mounga said.
Up to an estimated 12,000 elephants are lost to poaching each year to supply the illegal ivory trade. Most of the killings are believed to occur in Central Africa where law enforcement and deterrents are sometimes weak. WWF provides technical and logistical support to Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and to other Central African governments to help fight poaching.