Last Monday October 24, 2016, Some123 elephant tusks and 350Kg of Pangolin scales were interceded at Tiko Warf by the South West Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife on transit to the international market. Though no information was gotten as to where the tusk of these totally protected wildlife species is coming from or going to, the number of tusks indicated the world’s population of African Elephants has decreased by over 62.
During celebrations marking the 44th edition of the World Environment Day, last June 5, 2016, United Nation Secretary General, Ban Kim Moon called on countries the world over to intensify the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking. As the Cameroon government beefs up strategies against this trade, illegal wildlife trafficking seems to be gaining even more grounds in the country.
In the South West Region for example, illegal wildlife traffickers are currently undergoing trials in different courts across the region. Information from the Southwest Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife indicates that trial ongoing at the Court of First Instance by some traffickers who were tracked down last year after they were caught in Edenau with parts of endangered wildlife species. A similar case is also going on at the Court of First Instance in Tiko, Muyuka, Mamfe and Kumba.
One will think such legal measures will scare perpetrators of illegal wildlife traffickers but this is not the case. Last July 2016 for instance pangolin scales and parts of some wildlife species were confiscated by the West Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife. Meanwhile Some 42 illegal wildlife traffickers were detained in the Southern Region of Cameroon after they were caught transporting elephant tusks and some illegal games during this same period.
A few years ago, it was the case of some armed poaching gangs from Sudan, who massacred more than half of the elephants in the Bouba Njida National Park in northern Cameroon. Also, one of the largest burnings of poached wildlife goods in African history was observed recently in the country’s administrative head quarter with the burning of some 2,000 illegally trafficked elephant tusks and hundreds of finished ivory products.
Cameroon’s minister of forestry and wildlife, Philip NgoleNgwese, during this burning exercise, said seized tusks and ivory, much of which originated abroad, were now “beyond reach.” He described the human costs of poaching, mourning several guides and park rangers who have been killed in recent years.
The problem is precarious and far reaching and have been blamed on a number of factors including corruption on the part of some forestry and custom officials, porous borders, limited number of guards per protected area and inadequate equate equipment for fighting poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking amongst others
In a chat with some five eco guards on patrol a few months ago, they painted vivid picture of their plight: “As guards on patrol, we are at the war front and can be attacked at any time; the poachers are our enemy but most of them like the elephant hunters, have very sophisticated guns and are brutal…but see us; a group of persons on patrol in a class ‘A’ park in Cameroon with one gun produced since 1939-during the Second World War…how do we face such a situation? The government has giving us the best of training but has failed to equip us; you cannot send somebody to the war from without weapons!”
In another chat with the South West Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife a few days ago, he indicated that plans are underway at the Ministry to supply more sophisticated guns to protected areas in the country to reinforce the capacity of forest guards so that they can easily track down poachers and bring them to justice.
This is a great move if only it is not another government machine that will ‘grind slowly but surely’