Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder of a forest ranger, Ngongo Bruce Danny on December 7, 2016, near Lobeke National Park in eastern Cameroon. Ngongo was shot several times by heavily armed poachers while on a routine anti-poaching patrol on the peripheral zone of the park.
Authorities also seized 11 guns including 6 AK 47 (Kalashnikov) rifles and over 150 munitions during a two-week sting operation from 14-29 December 2016. The operation came on the heels of the brutal murder of the eco-guard and the wounding of a soldier.
The alleged kingpin, (a traditional ruler in the locality) in the operation that led to the killing of the eco-guard, has reportedly abandoned his palace and fled to neighbouring Congo, Brazzaville. “I can bet you we will track him thanks to our network in Congo and our transboundary relationship with the Congolese,” the Conservator says.
WWF had condemned, in very strong terms attacks perpetrated against eco-guards, calling for action from all concerned parties following the murder of Bruce. “The systematic killing of rangers must jolt all militating for protection of wildlife into action before things get out of control,” Dr. Hanson Njiforti, WWF Country Director had said.
In response to this crime, the conservation service put in place a strategy in collaboration with local authorities. The strategy had two phases; first dismantling all poaching networks which saw the arrest of the four suspect murderers, and secondly ensuring stability in the localities.
War guns and bullets seized“Within the context of installing peace in the localities, we launched an appeal to the local population to voluntarily hand over guns in their possession. This operation that started since January 2, 2017, has permitted us to recover four AK 47 guns voluntarily handed over by some individuals,” Achille said.
Another spontaneous anti-poaching mission undertaken from 17 to 19 February 2017 within two communities (Mikel and Mimbo-Mimbo) in the northeast of the park, resulted in the arrest of four other suspect poachers, seizure of eight elephant tusks and a fire arm.
All the eight suspects have been transferred to Yokadouma to face trial. According to Cameroon’s penal code, in case the first four suspects are found guilty of killing the eco-guard, they risk a minimum 10 years imprisonment each for their crime, without prejudice of heavy fines and damages. The other suspects could face a maximum 3 years imprisonment and/or FCFA 10 million (US Dollar 20000) as fines for killing of a totally protected wildlife species according to Cameroon’s wildlife law, without prejudice of civil damages to the wildlife administration and other penalties provided by the military code for arm trafficking.
Intense poaching and arms trafficking around Lobeke National Park has led to the massacre of 50% of the park’s elephant population and the murder of two eco-guards and several others injured since 2010.
According to the conservator, the killing of Bruce seems to have emboldened the eco-guards in their war against poaching. “Eco-guards of Lobeke are more than ever determined to honour the blood of their colleague. With the support of our partners (WWF, the TNS Foundation, the German and American cooperation), we shall make poaching a very dangerous activity within Lobeke,” Achille said.