The arrests that were carried out with the gendarmerie is the fourth operation, involving traffickers of carved ivory, that has been done by wildlife officials within two weeks in different towns including Dschang, Melong, and Yaounde. The operations fall within the framework of the government’s drive to track and arrest traffickers of protected wildlife species within the country and this is done with technical assistance from The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA).
The two suspects have a longstanding relationship in trafficking and have been collaborating to successfully grow a flourishing ivory business, according to prior investigations. One of the traffickers owns a restaurant where they receive clients including traffickers for business discussions and, curiously enough at the time of his arrest, an ivory statuette was visible in the restaurant. This may have served as an ad slot for the traffickers or a lead to inform potential traffickers of another business ongoing at the restaurant. Sources contacted, who spoke on condition of anonymity, were baffled at such a high level of exposure without taking necessary concealment measures known to be of prime importance to ivory traffickers. The relationship had been very fruitful up to their arrest, the same sources say.
The two are presently held in custody in Ebolowa and the first hearing of the case took place at the Court of First Instance on November 15, 2016, with both suspects present in court. The magistrate handling the matter adjourned to November 22, 2016.
The illegal sale of ivory and carved objects in towns is part of a macabre chain of events which start with poachers killing elephants in the forest and ecoguards trying to stop them. Since the Bouba Ndjida massacre in 2012 in the north of the country, the government has equally involved the military to fight this crime. The enormity of the task is serious and governments seem not to be able to do it alone. While the support offered by the community is necessary and essential, it must be cultivated and exploited as some of the poachers and traffickers are part of the community.
The illegal trade in ivory and some elephant parts has been described as the main threat to the survival of the elephant species on the continent, and communities that host elephant populations may just well start to understand the enormity of responsibility given them by nature, otherwise they may carry a stain on their collective consciences if we were to lose the elephant.