216 Elephant Tusks Seize In Djoum

Seized elephant tails[/caption]

Some 216 elephant tusks and 81 elephant tails have been seized by wildlife authorities in the locality of Mintom and Djoum in the South Region of Cameroon.

Rangers of the Dja Biosphere Reserve intercepted the tusks and tails on December 11 in a pickup vehicle that reportedly belong to an army colonel in the South Region.

Information reveals that wildlife authorities captured the heavily loaded pickup around 11pm with two individuals; a poaching kingpin and a driver on board who tried in vain to escape the control.

According to ongoing investigations, the suspects, now in gendarmerie custody, allegedly work for a high-ranking military officer whom it is claimed has been using his privileged position and state assets to carry out illegal activities for several years now including suspected poaching and wildlife crime.

Local sources revealed that the colonel has been funding poaching operations in the area and collects the tusks over time before transporting them to his customers in the big cities.

Going by reports, the locality of Mintom and Djoum is considered a transit hub for ivory and arms trafficking within the Central African sub region.

The seizure of the 216 tusks, according to experts means poachers have killed at least 104 elephants. However, it remains unclear if all the tusks and tails were collected from elephants poached in protected areas in Cameroon alone or from neighbouring Gabon and Congo Republic.

Speaking to reporters, the World-Wide Fund, WWF, Crime Coordinator for Central Africa, Alain Bernard Ononino congratulated wildlife officials stating that Cameroon in particular is losing its elephant population at an alarming rate.

“WWF congratulate wildlife officials for these seizures. Cameroon government nonetheless has toughen the war against wildlife crime in order to save the last elephants standing. Central Africa and particularly Cameroon is losing its elephant population at an alarming rate and this calls for urgent actions,” Bernard Ononino noted.

To Georges Mouncharou, South Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, “This operation was successful thanks to the efficiency of the intelligence system and the determination of park rangers. The battle against wildlife crime can only be won if MINFOF, other enforcement agencies with the support of conservation partners are able to dismantle criminal networks behind which often hides very influential people,” Mouncharou stated.

Seized elephant tusks

Given that this is one of the biggest seizures, rangers and the police have carried out in Cameroon and the third mega seizure of elephant tusks in 2017, reports say the seizure brings the number to at least 600 elephant tusks seized in 2017 alone, majority of them coming from the southeast of the country

On November 10, police seized 158 ivory tusks, 26 bags of pangolin scales weighing 1050kg and 124 African grey parrot heads from three traffickers in the city of Douala. In March 2017, customs officers arrested two traffickers in Bertoua, East Region of Cameroon, with 159 ivory tusks. The court later slammed a US$ 500,000 fine and five-month imprisonment terms on the convicts.

This seizure comes against a backdrop of redoubled efforts by Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, and partners like WWF in the fight against wildlife crime. Influential people, including administrators, judiciary officials and high-ranking military officers (white-collar poachers) have been behind big ivory trafficking cases in Cameroon.

In 2013, rangers intercepted a vehicle belonging to a colonel transporting 87 ivory tusks. In 2015, rangers around Lobeke seized 53 ivory tusks but 49 disappeared in the home of the civil administrator in the town of Moloundou East Region of Cameroon.

Wildlife censuses carried out by WWF in four Central African countries have revealed that forest elephant populations have declined by approximately 66 per cent over eight years in an area covering almost six million hectares.

However, WWF is providing support to MINFOF to ensure proper judiciary investigations and prosecutions in these cases.

BY ETIENNE MAINIMO MENGNJO in Yaounde

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