Beninese, Nigerian Arrested for Wildlife Trafficking
Four traffickers in protected wildlife species were arrested on Tuesday April 29, 2015 during two back to back operations carried out in Idenau and Limbe in the South West region by wildlife officials from the Fako divisional delegation of forestry and wildlife. The traffickers were arrested for illegal possession and commercialization of 10 sea turtle shells. The four suspected traffickers include 47-year old Akam Michael, 31-year old Kanghi Joseph who are both Cameroonians , 37-year old Fiongnon Kocou from Benin and Reuben Akpan Jack, a 43-year old Nigerian.
During the first operation, the Beninese used a couple of tricks as he attempted to sell his share of sea turtle shells. From every indication, the exchange of money and shells was supposed to take place near the Idenau council premises. So when he arrived some 20 metres to the council office, he alighted from a motorbike, shapely and nervously looked around, moved forward into the bush, shot one last quick look and hid the bag of sea turtle shells.
He then covered the remaining 20 m on foot, made a number of phone calls, returned and collected the bag of products. But before he could go too far, wildlife officials, accompanied by gendarmes from the Idenau territorial brigade who had been monitoring the comings and goings, immediately stepped forward to arrest him. Seeing that danger was coming too close, he dashed out in a desperate last minute attempt to flee but was quickly rounded up.
It was disclosed by sources close to the case that during investigations leading to his arrest, it was found out that he worked with a Nigerian who played the role of an undercover agent and this information led to his arrest.
Shortly after the operation in Idenau, the wildlife officials quickly boarded a car with the suspects to Limbe where two other traffickers were firmly under the radar of an investigation mission and this quickly turned into an operation as one of the two came forth to sell their own share of the sea tulle shells. They were equally rounded up before they could realize what was going on.
The operations were carried with technical assistance of The Last Great Ape Organisation – LAGA. A case file is being established in Limbe against the suspects arrested in the town while the Beninese who was arrested in Idenau and detained in Limbe is expected to be presented before the state counsel in Buea.
Sea turtle are totally protected wildlife species which are facing serious survival challenges following intense poaching for food. Its eggs are equally poached. But the beauty of its shell is considered to be the main reason behind the trafficking. The shells are generally used for decorative purposes. There are 6 species of sea turtle including the green sea turtle, the Kemp’s ridley, the loggerhead, the hawksbill, the flatback and the leatherback which is the largest and can weigh up to 680 kg comparable to the native African cow – the Ankole-Watusi that weighs a maximum 730 kg. The huge weight of these species may therefore explain why they are poached for food but the 1994 wildlife law prohibits trade in any protected wildlife species and anyone found with such species is considered to have killed or captured the said species.