Two brothers arrested for wildlife trafficking
A team from the forestry and wildlife control post in Manjo in the Moungo Division working in collaboration with the gendarmerie brigade arrested two wildlife traffickers for illegal possession and commercialization of chimpanzee skulls as the pair sat down conducting business negotiations on March 24, 2015. The operation was technically assisted by The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA).
Ngale Jean Jerome aged 41 and Moto Joel aged 30 travelled from Mangamba, took up lodging in Manjo the day before their arrest. They came along with 4 chimpanzee skulls they had collected from a poacher, they would later explain, which they intended to sell. As the car transporting the arresting team stopped near the house where business was going on, a visibly panic stricken pair shot out startled looks and scrambled to their feet while the team alighted from the car and stepped forward. One of team members would position himself outside and blocked the entrance to the house. A short and quick exchange of questions and answers ensued and they were asked to open the bag which they did. An inquisitive onlooker shot a question to the team of officers on what was the content of the bag and on what had happened but received stern looking faces as the pair were dragged into the car. Inside the bag, 4 chimpanzee skulls were found.
Investigators say before the arrest, the wildlife traffickers had consulted a soothsayer to determine whether the business was going to be successful and void of any risk of being arrested They were told them to go ahead. This is not the first instance traffickers are consulting a soothsayer before engaging business. In 2014 a leopard skin trafficker was arrested in Dschang for illegal commercialization of a leopard skin but on the morning before his arrest, he would consult a witch doctor to find out if the business would be successful. Traffickers seem to understand they are at risk of being arrested because the activity is illegal and so they want to decipher any signs of danger lurking.
It was later discovered that the two were brothers and the prosecution process was started by the drawing of an offence statement by the chief of the Manjo forestry and wildlife control post. The case was later forwarded to the state counsel’s chambers in Nkongsamba. A satisfied forestry and wildlife control post chief, Dikongue explained what happened. “We surprised them as they were selling these chimpanzee skulls, we took them to the wildlife post where we drew an offence statement and forwarded the case to the state counsel”
Chimpanzee are mostly killed for their meat but the sales of heads and limbs including skulls which may be considered as trophies and used for traditional medicinal concoctions also is driving the species to extinction and the wildlife chief laments that “here [Manjo] when you ask people in the villages around, they would tell you that back in the days chimps were seen close [to their villages] and we know the important role chimps and other animals play in the ecosystem but they becoming rarer which is a problem” and he says”the law must be applied to discourage this practice”. And experts believe this should be very timely and effective as chimp populations in the country are in danger of extinction. According to new research published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.the most endangered chimp, the Cameroon Nigeria chimpanzee, is close to extinction and its population stands at 6000. Reasons given for this state of affairs include deforestation, expanding agriculture and human settlements, and illegal poaching and bushmeat trade. Cameroon is also host to the central chimpanzee that is also found in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has an estimated population of 115 000 and it is considered to be the largest chimpanzee population