Man arrested in Wum for Illegal Wildlife Trafficking
A man was arrested for illegal possession and circulation of chimpanzee and mandrill bones, in Wum, in the Menchum Division of the North West Region. He was arrested during a crackdown operation carried out by the Menchum Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife working in collaboration with the police and a wildlife law enforcement NGO called LAGA.
The suspect who was arrested red handed, had packaged 8 chimpanzee skulls, 2 mandrill skulls, and several other chimpanzee bones which could not be immediately named inside a shopping bag and arrived the scene of transaction on a motorbike. Investigations had provided valuable information leading to the creation of a team of wildlife officials and police officers from the Wum Police Station and they waited for him to make his move with the products.
He is described as a big time trafficker and had links with another suspect in Bamenda with whom he carried out deals. Sources close to the operation say he also has an international link
After his arrest the Menchum Divisional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, Nguekeng Claude declared “according to procedure, we immediately called the state counsel and informed him of the arrest. He is presently detained and awaiting the completion of procedure, he shall be presented to the state counsel”.
The operation is the second within three days in the North West Region coming after the arrest of a man in Kumbo, Bui Division following his attempts at selling a live mona monkey and mandrill skulls. The man who is presently detained in Kumbo, travelled from Ako in the Donga Mantung Divison with the products. The rate of arrests has set alarm bells ringing creating concerns among some North West inhabitants who may just be discovering the rate of wildlife crimes in the region.
A Bamenda-based conservation expert expressed concern over the arrests as chimpanzees are now restricted to some patches of forests in the region that once had a huge population of the Nigeria Cameroon chimpanzee. Many believe the population has dwindled to almost extinction in the area. Osiris Doumbe, a conservation biologist is carrying out a study in the region to determine the population of this chimpanzee and according to the biologist, “This subspecies of chimpanzee is the rarest and the least studied of all four and is only found in the lowland and montane forests of Eastern Nigeria and Western Cameroon”.
This may explain why wildlife officials are stepping up enforcement measures which are aimed at obstructing the killing and commercialization of the Nigeria Cameroon chimpanzee which is just one of the very few totally protected species still found in the region. Ngeukeng Claude is the person charged with the effective application of the wildlife law in the Menchum Division and he declared, “We know that wildlife species are racing towards extinction and this necessitated its protection, that is why the law is being applied”. He seemed to have an extra spring in his step when he led his team his team to the field to hunt down the suspect and many believe this is necessary if we are to save the Nigeria Cameroon chimpanzee in the region.