President hunters association arrested in Ngambe Tikar
The president of a local hunters’ association in Ngambe Tikar was arrested by wildlife officials of the Mbam and Kim Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife on Tuesday 27 January 2014. He was arrested with two others for illegal possession and commercialization of a variety of wildlife products including a dead baby colobus monkey, the limbs and scales of a giant pangolin, both listed as totally protected wildlife species in the country. The operation that was carried out in collaboration with the gendarmerie brigade in Ngambe Tikar came after an elaborate investigation following growing tips from the population on the illegal activity going on in the town. Wildlife officials put up investigztion missions to corner and arrest him but could not succeed in nailing him down to any offences although it was widely known that he was deep into wildlife trafficking.
Immediately after their arrest, law enforcement officials rounded the three traffickers into a truck with two other burglars who had been terrorizing Ngambe Tikar’s residents through regular break-ins and had succeeded in escaping detention at the gendarmerie brigade. The three traffickers were handcuffed alongside the burglars and transported immediately to the divisional headquarters of Ntui where they are held in detention. As the Toyota –pick-up truck carrying the suspects reel into the road, steadied and fired into full gear, the crowd surged with excitement and relief, noting that some of the high profile criminals including notorious wildlife traffickers were now leaving town. The operation was carried out with the technical assistance of The Last Great Ape Association (LAGA) and the Mbam and Kim Divisional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, Sone Charles, declared shortly after the operation that “these poachers have been giving us a lot of headache, carrying out these activities and for some time we have been trying to track them but thanks to the efforts of LAGA we drew up strategies to monitor their activities which enabled us to lay hands on them”.
The hunters’ association president is known to have been in the illegal business for several years. In March 2014. he was found poaching in Ngambe Tikar by a National Control Brigade team from the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife that was on a control mission in the Mbam and Kim Division. He was warned on the illegality of his activity and released without charges brought against him.
As law enforcement officials made logistic preparations to transfer the traffickers to Ntui, pressure from some administrative and traditional quarters was mounted to secure their release. Phone calls and direct physical pressures were observed, a source close to the case declared but the wildlife officials and gendarmes handling the matter stood their ground. After witnessing the steadfast attitude of law officials, another approach consisting basically of negotiating for their release was initiated. On the way to Ntui, precisely at Ngoro, the team was approached by some people, engaged them in calm discussion with the same intent but this too failed to produce any effect. Many consider this resistance encouraging especially as the divison host two national partks, the Mbam and Mpem and the Mbam and Djerem National Park.
Pressure mounting and negotiation is a regular feature when wildlife criminals are arrested around the country. In a similar event, the Conservator of the Benoue National Park arrested some 4 Chinese gold diggers this month in the park for illegally prospecting deep inside the park. They carried a spade, a gold beater and a pickaxe, basic tools necessary for gold panning The conservator attempted to get the gendarmerie detain them as procedure warrants but he was turned down and had to detain the Chinese in the park’s offices. According to the conservator who was contacted by phone who declared that following sustained pressure and with little support from anyone, he released the offenders; failing to prosecute the offenders as the law demands.
Meanwhile in a successful case, wildlife officials in Mfou succeeded in prosecuting a man who was arrested in August 2013 near the Nsimalen International Airport for illegal possession and circulation of African grey parrots. He sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Mfou Court of First Instance. Minkada Engonga Mathurin who was transporting 71 African grey parrots on board a vehicle with a military number plate was equally ordered to pay civil claims of over 3 million CFA F and fines of close to 200 000 CFA F. This is victory for those working every day on the ground to prosecute people responsible for the demise of the country’s wildlife heritage as the law governing the sector stipulates that a person should face 1 t 3 years jail term if found guilty of breaking section 101 of the 1994 wildlife law that states that anyone who is found in possession of a protected wildlife species is presumed to have captured or killed the animal.