Translated from French by an automated online translation service, so please excuse the roughness. See link for original. Thank you to Anne Dillon for volunteering her time to finding these French articles and doing the online translating.
Three suspected smugglers of wildlife were arrested July 23, 2015, in Abong Mbang, a city in the region of eastern Cameroon, with more than 2 kg of illicit gold worth around 30 million CFA francs.
While trying to sell gold, three men were targeted for their alleged illegal activity earlier, in a vast ivory trafficking network. They were the subject of an investigation following the arrest of two ivory traffickers based in Yaoundé trying to market two carved ivory tusks and 27 pieces of carved ivory. Preliminary investigations showed that the two individuals arrested a month before had dubious connections themselves as sellers of art. When they were taken to the police station after their arrest, at the opening of the legal process, it was discovered that they were just part of a large network of ivory traffickers covering all households trafficking in the country.
Operation “punch,” an NGO specializing in enforcement of wildlife—The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA)—has provided technical assistance during the operations, and also provided support to the agents of Forestry and Wildlife, with a mission to arrest the three suspects. But instead of ivory, a strange package was found in the possession of the three individuals, with an impressive amount of gold.
One of the three suspects had left Messamena, a town near Abong Mbang, with gold carefully wrapped in a plastic bag and hidden in a small handbag. He traveled at night to avoid being unmasked in the various checkpoints along the road. The agents of Forestry and Wildlife of the Departmental Delegation of Upper Nyong were visibly disappointed for they had been committed to understanding that he was in possession of ivory.
However, the arrest proved totally different. This is the first time that the trafficking of wildlife products is directly linked to that of gold. Many environmentalists complain that artisanal mining in national parks threatens the survival of wild species.
Operation “punch” against the trafficking of wildlife products have in the past also revealed other cases of crime involving other crimes, such as: the drug trafficking and the human bones invaded national parks. In September 2012, five people were arrested at a check barrier Djoum in the southern region, with fresh human skulls and elephant meat en route in Yaounde.
The traffic of wildlife products and that of drugs, particularly marijuana, are common and have been observed several times in the past. But this new finding opens a new field of investigation for wildlife crime. This is a serious concern for environmentalists because the miners have a tendency to invade national parks. Upper Nyong is known for trafficking wildlife products. Thus, several law enforcement operations have been conducted over the years and on ivory traffickers in particular. They operate all around Abong Mbang, in cities like Lomié and Ngoyla, localities near the Dja reserve that is home to elephants.
Abraham Ndjana MODO