Ape Skulls Dealers Nabbed in Djoum
Two ape traffickers have been arrested in Djoum, South region for illegal possession and commercialization of gorilla and chimpanzee skulls. They were arrested during a crackdown operation carried out by wildlife officials working in collaboration with the police.
The two who are presently behind bars were stopped and searched as they entered the premises of a small hotel in Djoum to complete a transaction they had started sometime last month. They were being trailed by a team of frontier police and wildlife officials from the Dja biosphere reserve after investigations led to the uncovering of the fact that the two were deep in ape trafficking. As they stepped into the hotel, one of the arresting officers came forward, stopped and inquired about the contents of their sac. One of them held firmly to a sac. They babbled some unsatisfactory answers and told police officers and wildlife officials present that they were there for some regular business and nothing suspicious but when the sac was opened 1 chimpanzee and 3 gorilla skulls rolled out leaving the two left scary faced. “Are these human skulls?”, the arresting officer barked at the two who quickly refuted and declared the skulls to be gorilla and chimpanzee skulls.
As they were whisked away to the Gendarmerie Brigade in Djoum, where they are presently locked up, they sat quietly inside the van, looking worried about what was in store for them next. Sources close to the case say one of the two is well known to enforcement officials and had been under investigations for some time. The operation is a continuation of a trend of investigations uncovering the illegal trade in ape parts including skulls, heads and limbs. Wildlife law enforcement experts in Cameroon say it is linked to an even bigger illicit international trade. Many operations carried out in recent months by wildlife officials working in collaboration with The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA) has produced startling revelations from traffickers involved in the illicit trade and points to an even bigger international link. The collaboration with the international body was once more called into action for the realization of the arrest operation in Djoum. The two traffickers may face up to 3 years in prison according to the 1994 wildlife law that stipulates that anyone found in possession of part of a protected wildlife species is considered to have killed the animal is therefore liable to a prison term of 1 t0 3 years and or a maximum fine of 10 million CFA F.
The illicit trade in gorilla and chimpanzee parts is undermining conservation efforts aimed at saving a population of apes that is already under severe threat in the country and the sub-region as a whole and creating favourable conditions for the realization of leading primatologist – Jane Goodall’s prediction that wild populations of chimpanzees may become extinct by 2020. Some may think it is a far-fetched but a study in Northern Congo found out that 5.7 % of chimpanzee and gorilla were killed each year while a 12-month study in Brazzaville a few years back counted 15 000 animal carcasses in bushmeat markets including 293 chimpanzees. This is way too far and may have just one consequence, the disappearance of the ape populations very soon.