Three elephant parts traffickers nabbed

Sangmelima dealers

Three people have been arrested in Sangmelima by Wildlife officials of the Dja and Lobo Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife for illegal commercialization of elephant and primate parts.

They travelled to Sangmelima from Bengbis, on October 8, 2014, using a transport car popularly known as “clando” with the products confined into two big bags. When they arrived Sangmelima, they took up position in a motel and ordered for drinks but would be arrested before they could finish their drinks. One of the main suspects, a man aged 37 years, is suspected of trafficking in ivory and had been the subject of an earlier investigation. He had contacted the two other traffickers and informed them that he was about to sell his products while prompting them to bring along their own elephant bones to sell. Sources close to the case say he confessed to the killing of elephants and had earlier escaped arrest at a check point on the road from Bengbis to Sangmelima. The operation was carried out with the collaboration of the Forces of Law and Order and a non governmental organization called LAGA provided technical assistance.

The arrest comes just over one-week after two other people were arrested in Ambam still in the South Region for illegal possession, commercialization of chimp and gorilla bones. The operations are being carried out under the framework of the wildlife law enforcement programme that seeks to track and prosecute offenders of the wildlife law. The successful implementation of this programme has seen hundreds of traffickers arrested and given prison sentences and the latest of the sentences was meted out by the Bertoua Court of First Instance where two dealers were convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment for trafficking in wildlife products. The two were arrested last May while they attempted to sell gorilla parts in Bertoua, East Region. According to the law governing the forestry, wildlife and fisheries sectors, anyone found in possession of parts of a protected wildlife species is considered to have killed the animal and shall be liable to a prison term of 1- 3 years and or the payment of a fine that can be up to 10 million francs. The two convicted traffickers, Kapita Michel and Samba Richard were ordered to pay 17 million francs as damages.

The number of people arrested on grounds of illegal trade in elephant bones has been on the rise this year and investigations, observations and confessions from them show that these traffickers are generally linked to the illegal ivory trade as the bones of the elephants are just by-products of the illicit trade. Observers say when an elephant is killed, this is done principally for its ivory but when an opportunity arises to rip some benefits from the sale of bones, the traffickers generally want to profit from it. The bones are believed to be used for traditional concoctions and as a source of calcium. This may be putting additional threats to the survival of elephants and other protected wildlife species as in June 2014 an arrest operation saw the seizure of over 100 elephant bones in Mundemba and the Court of First Instance would give the two who were found guilty the maximum three years imprisonment sentence. They were ordered to pay close to 100 million francs as damages. These deterrent sentences are expected to put additional pressure on potential traffickers and on those who are already in the business. The message that authorities seem to be sending out is that of zero tolerance to wildlife trafficking in the country.

Eric Kaba

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