The problem of illegal wildlife trafficking along the Cameroon-Nigeria border ranging from Akwaya and Gayama in the extreme west of the Kimbi-Fungom National Park through Furu Awa right down to the Dumbu Ranch, seems perennial. Forestry and wildlife officials in and around these areas are becoming more and more frustrated by illegal wildlife traffickers, mostly from Nigeria, whom they accuse of rubbing the country of its wildlife and timber.
“Just this year, we have made them (Nigerian illegal exploiters) in Furu Awa twice with a truck filled with timber ready to be exported to Nigeria. We couldn’t carry the timbers over to Cameroon because of no roads; we wanted burning the truck and timber all together but were scared of the fire going out of control. So the vehicles were disabled but we don’t know if they later came with another vehicle and offloaded or not…..we are helpless! We have also met with wildlife traffickers a couple of time. Each time we meet with them, they hide their guns so we get their catch. Sometimes they sense our coming even before we come because I am sure they work in complicity with the villagers” Mr. Christopher Fominyam, Conservator of the Kimbi-Fungom National Park narrated his plight in an interview granted this writer.
The Divisional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife for Menchum (one of the border Divisions to Nigeria), Mr. Lucas Tajouego, on his part, explained that some three weeks ago, a baboon was confiscated at the Bawuru frontier from Nigerians who were just about crossing with it over to their country and taken to the Limbe Wildlife Center.
He painted a vivid picture of how illegal wildlife trafficking operates at the Cameroon-Nigerian border: “There are two ways which these traffickers get into Cameroon by land and the river. They get through Furu Awa by land into the forest, exploit our resources and use trucks to carry over to Nigeria given that this area is more accessible from Nigeria than Cameroon. In the Gayama area, they cut down trees and use boats to transport to Nigeria.”
The MINFOF officials attributed this worrisome situation to the porosity of Cameroon border, limited resources for repression and complicity on the part of Cameroonians and traditional rulers along the border.
Besides being many, these officials said the Nigerians have more sophisticated weapons. “Sometimes when you go to the field, you find over 100 of them equipped with sophisticated guns, machetes against some 11 and less equipped Ecoguards. It is therefore not easy for us to fight with them” they added.
Both the Menchum Divisional Delegate and Conservator of the Kimbu-Fungom National Park however, disclosed a number of strategies they are putting in place to handle the situation at their own level.
“Recently, we accompanied the SDO during his walking visit to Furu Awa. During this visit, we had a walking session with the chiefs of villages adjacent to these areas because we belief the Nigerians cannot exploit these resources without their knowledge. We are also imploring them to collaborate with us in the fight against illegal exploitation. Meanwhile we are in talking terms with the Senior Divisional Officer of Menchum to see if a military base can be established in Fru Awa. If this is done, it will help the Chief of Forestry Post in that area especially during patrol because the chief of Forestry Posts in these areas are all there alone” MINFOF Delegate for Menchum disclosed.
The Conservator of Kimbi-Fungom, on his part, said the park service has put in place a regular and a quarterly patrol scheme. “We have regular patrols and quarterly impromptu patrols targeting various trans-borders accesses. Gayama is a melting pot for illegal wildlife trafficking so we pay more attention there; Furu Awa is a little better because it has a gendarmerie post though with only two elements. So we do four impromptu patrols per year and 12 to 24 regular patrols in different parts of the forest” the Conservator said.
Reacting to this, the North West Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, Mr. Desire Julien Mbelley, promised transmitting a letter to “hierarchy” explaining the situation and recommending that the country strengthens international collaboration with the Nigerian government and make them know that her people are illegally exporting the county’s natural resources.
By Shancho Ndimuh