Wild Life Officials arrest two with animal skulls

Skulls

Wildlife officials of the Ntem Valley Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife have arrested two people for illegal possession and commercialization of chimpanzee and gorilla skulls in Ambam shortly after they arrived from Meyo Centre a locality midway on the road from Ebolowa to Ambam.

The pair, a man aged 38 and a 42-year old married woman and mother of nine children, travelled from Meyo Centre on the October 1, 2014 and arrived the Ambam motor park where they did a number of phone calls and proceeded to the place of transaction close to the Ambam market. They then continued with phone calls, visibly trying to link up with someone. The activities of the man had been covered for some time now and he was accompanied by the woman this time while officials made the arrest as the two approached a bar presumably to carry out the sale of the ape parts. When the travelling bag they had with them was searched the contents revealed 5 chimpanzee skulls, 1 gorilla skull and a pair of antelope horns.

The man who had been under the radar of an investigation is a dealer in cocoa and he uses this activity to get in contact with poachers around Meyo Centre, a small village that is known for the sale of bushmeat and trophies obtained from protected wildlife species. He equally covers areas around Ma’an that is close to the Campo Ma’an National Park.

The operation leading to their arrest was carried out in collaboration with the state counsel’s chambers, the gendarmerie in Ambam and with technical assistance from LAGA – a wildlife law enforcement organisation. The operation comes after a recent call made during the last regional anti-poaching committee meeting held last month in Ebolowa, by the Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, Obam Obam Pierre, for the intensification of the fight against wildlife crime. He urged his collaborators to work hard to stop traffickers from having a free ride in the region that has a high concentration of parks and is home to many protected wildlife species including the gorilla, the chimpanzee, the mandrill and many other iconic primates.

And this call was fully respected as the team of enforcement officers led by the Ntem Valley Divisional Chief of Wildlife, Pouhe Jacques went into action and after the arrest he declared that “in order to discourage traffickers, we need to carry out operations as such because there is a law that should be respected and those who do not respect the law shall be arrested. They need to meet wildlife officials to understand the regulations in force” Chimpanzees and gorillas are totally protected wildlife species and are listed as Class A species by the wildlife law.

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Wildlife trafficking is known to be a real problem in this region and in particular in areas around Ambam, Ma’an, Mintom and Djoum which are considered trafficking hotbeds. Over the years numerous traffickers have been arrested in this region and the illicit activity is ongoing, so conservationists say efforts must be stepped up and the area targeted for special consideration by enforcement officials. This is exactly the message the Ministry of Forestry and wildlife is sending out that there should be no complacency in fighting wildlife crimes in the country.

The two were remanded in custody and the judicial process has now been set in motion to prosecute the traffickers according to the stipulations of the 1994 wildlife law that say that anyone caught in possession of parts of a protected wildlife species is considered to have captured or killed the animal.

Sources close to the case say the operation was successful thanks to the collaboration of some members of the public who provided valuable information concerning the activities of the main suspect behind the case. It seems as if the threat posed by wildlife crime is finally sinking in the minds of Cameroonians and they are waking up to calls made in this direction.

Eric Kaba

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