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20 Tusks Seized As 5 Poachers Are Arrested 

By Pegue Manga

Some 20 elephant tusks were recently seized aboard a truck in Ntam, a village located southwest of Nki National Park on the east of Cameroon’s border with Congo Brazzaville. The tusks were hidden in the back of a 30-ton truck that was transporting some 300 bags of cocoa from Sembe in Congo Brazzaville to Douala in Cameroon.

Impounded ivory

Five people have been arrested including the driver of the truck and taken to Abong Mbang, a town in the East Region of Cameroon, where it is expected poaching-related charges will be pressed against them.

If found guilty, the suspect poachers might be slammed jail terms ranging from one to three years and a fine ranging from FCFA 3,000,000 to FCFA 10,000,000, according to Cameroonian law. According to Jacques Guillaume Touck Kamba, the ranger manning the Forestry and Wildlife control post in Ntam, they discovered, upon initial search, a small ivory tusk weighing less than 5 kg concealed in a brief case in the driver’s compartment.

“We began suspecting that something was amiss. We systematically searched the entire truck and discovered 20 tusks tucked in a chest at the rear of the truck,” Guillaume said. The ivory had been split into 30 pieces so they could conveniently fit in the chest. “10 of the tusks weigh less than 5 kg, while the other 10 weigh more than 5 kg,” disclosed Guillaume. Going by the number of tusks, 10 elephants have been killed.

Rangers suspect the elephants were poached in Nki National Park, the tusks assembled in Souanke, a border town in Congo, and owners attempted to later smuggle them through the East and South Regions of Cameroon to Douala. This seizure brings once more to the fore the intensity of ivory trafficking in the Southeast of Cameroon and the increasing difficulties faced by Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) to wade off the poaching.

Parrots rescued from poachers

“Just a week before this seizure we, upon a tip off, missed by a whisker poachers said to have been smuggling six tusks extracted from elephants killed in Nki,” said Mpae Desiré, a game ranger working for Nki.  “The poachers probably learned of our arrival and escaped across the border to Souanke in Congo,” said Desiré. Earlier in December 2010, game rangers at Ntam control post pursued a poacher and seized two tusks from him.

Difficulties

Problems bedeviling anti-poaching efforts around Nki National Park are enormous. “There are just 30 poorly equipped game rangers to protect a forest massif spanning more than 300,000 hectares,” explained Fouda Expedit, WWF Park Assistant for Nki. “Most of the poachers are armed with automatic rifles whereas you have as many as 10 game rangers to one old Mass 36 gun, which is not capable of dissuading these illegal hunters,” he added.

Rangers also complain of the numerous unprotected trails that lead to the heart of the park and decry the decline of anti-poaching support. Nki forms part of TRIDOM (Tri-National Dja-Odzala-Minkebe) respectively protected areas in Cameroon, Congo and Gabon. The village of Ntam is situated in the Ngoyla Mintom inter-zone which is Cameroon’s segment of the larger TRIDOM inter zone that links protected areas of the three countries.

The inter zone is a superhighway for migration of flagship species such as elephants, gorillas, mandrills and chimpanzees amongst TRIDOM’s many protected areas. Plans aimed at protecting the TRIDOM landscape have been slow to take off even though Ministers in charge of Forestry of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo had already signed the TRIDOM accord.

“The delay in launching TRIDOM activities is playing negatively against our effort. This, coupled with dwindling funding for conservation, has made it hard for us to sustain effort to fight ivory traffickers,” stated Mboh Dandjouma, Conservator for Nki National Park.

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