Three Arrested for Wildlife Trafficking

Seized ivory

Three people were arrested within 48 hours last week, for trafficking in wildlife products in Lomie, East Region and in Yaounde. A 46- year-old man who travelled from Mindourou, a town close to Lomie was arrested in the Mvog Ada neighbourhood in Yaounde as he attempted to sell a bagful of giant pangolin scales. Wildlife officials of the Centre Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with the forces of law and order arrested the man after they got reliable information indicating that a suspect had left Mindourou and was on his way to Yaounde with giant pangolin scales. He is well connected to other trafficking suspects according to the information.
The trafficking of pangolin scales is a major issue of concern as two others who were arrested in Lomie were also suspected pangolin scale traffickers. The two were arrested by wildlife officials in Lomie trafficking in gorilla and chimpanzee skulls, teeth extracted from a bush pig and an elephant, during a crackdown operation carried out by the Lomie Forestry and Wildlife Control Post with technical support provided by a wildlife law enforcement NGO called LAGA. The operation took place at about 10 am on Wednesday August 19, 2015 as the pair sat drinking and discussing the sale of the products.
Sources who requested for anonymity say the men who were found with no identification papers are major ivory and pangolin scale traffickers although they are suspected to illegally trade in diverse wildlife products. They equally supply bullets to local poachers and collect products after the hunt.
The suspects, who look like forty-something-year-olds, demonstrated professional acuity in carrying out the attempted sale. Like cold war spy agents, they carried out an expert check of the area. Sources say, when they arrived the scene for the first time that morning, they did not take along the product and with a measured walk, they strolled past the bar and checked out it surroundings, entrances into and out of the selected transaction area. Looking satisfied after apparently finding the place a suitable one for business, they left. About 30 minutes later, they reappeared from an opposite direction and this time they had a bag. One of them would stay outside the bar while the other went in to presumably start business transactions. After a short while, he reappeared and beckoned on his partner carrying the bag to follow him. They both disappeared into the bar and took out a round of drinks which they could not finish because wildlife life officials would soon make their entrance into the scene.
An ensuing question and answer series followed as one of the officials poured the contents of the bag on the floor to the awe of onlookers. The two where politely told to come along to the wildlife control post for further investigations and examination into the affair.
Sources say the two had regular dealings with some Chinese traffickers, supplying them pangolin scales. The illegal sale of pangolin scales has become a common feature in Lomie, and a booming business with traffickers doing the buying and selling especially to Chinese traffickers. In fact, the pangolin scale business is known even to children as one of the onlookers at the forestry and wildlife control post upon seeing the ape skulls on display declared that all is now business in Lomie. He said, his young children fight over pangolin scales when his wife finishes preparing a dish with pangolin meat. He continued to tell whoever was interested in his story that when he questioned his children as to what they do with pangolin scales, the reply was astonishing. His children told him that there is somebody in the market buying the scales and they intend to sell it to him. It seems as though traffickers are now ripping profits from every wildlife part as a result of changing and rising demand in the illegal wildlife market. Today, the pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the world with rising demands in the Asian market.

Eric Kaba

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