A 35-year-old man was arrested March 3, 2016, in Ebolowa, Cameroon, for trafficking elephant trophies. The man was arrested shortly after his arrival in Ebolowa from the small village of Nyabessan near the Campo Ma’an National Park in the southern region. The operation was conducted by the Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife South, in collaboration with the judicial police. The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) has provided technical assistance throughout the process.
According to sources involved in the operation, when he arrived in Ebolowa, the man immediately sought the services of a taxi motorcycle to meet someone, probably because he had made several phone calls earlier. He carried an inflated bag containing three tails and fresh elephant hooves, as was discovered after his arrest.
The same sources affirm that the investigations began following the discovery of the recent sale by the suspect, of the tusks of ivory to one “Alhadji,” who had left Yaounde for Ebolowa. A preliminary investigation of his activities revealed that he has long been a poacher who was also involved in trafficking, selling ivory to customers, most of which came from Yaounde. Investigations also revealed that the frequency of these sales was once every two weeks, which means that the only suspect could kill about 26 elephants per year.
He is allegedly working in complicity with a policeman, who gives him the necessary cover and puts information at his disposal on the movement of the wildlife agents. In return, the trafficker provides the policeman with fresh supplies of bushmeat and money after every mission in the forests.
It was also reported that he had often rented a gun at a rate of 25,000 CFA francs per mission which involves researching and slaughtering elephants in the Campo Ma’an National Park. Internal sources report that when he could not easily find herds of elephants on the Cameroon side of the River Ntem, he crossed the river to find himself on the side of Equatorial Guinea where he would be sure to find them.
The man who is now behind bars should be prosecuted for the illegal killing of protected species of wildlife and illegal detention of wildlife parts. Under the provisions of the Wildlife Act of 1994, every person found in possession of the body parts of a protected wildlife species is reputed to have killed the animal and is liable to receive a maximum prison sentence of 3 years and a fine maximum of 10 million CFA francs.
An estimated 38,000 elephants are killed each year to supply the illegal ivory trade, which is booming in Asia. The rising price of ivory with increasing profits attracts many criminals in the case and the Central African sub-region that houses the forest elephant is heavily involved. A recent study found that over 60% of the forest elephant population has been decimated over the past decade. And if a single poacher can kill up to 26 elephants annually, the situation is approaching calamity for the African elephant. These are frightening statistics for the conservation world and especially for the wildlife officers who have the responsibility to stop the extinction of the elephant. This explains why, since the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Forests and Fauna provides impetus to initiatives for an application of the law on wildlife.