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After Gunshot Wound, Ranger Returns To Frontline 

By Fidelis Pegue Manga — As he carries out routine checks of vehicles, timber trucks and people at a checkpoint in Ntam, a village on Cameroon’s border with the Republic of Congo, there are times forest ranger Moise Djaba Afana is shaken by the traumatic memory of September 12, 2008. On that fateful day, a poacher shot Afana leaving him severely injured and bed ridden for six months.

During an anti-poaching patrol, Afana and six other colleagues made their way through a bush path that led to a suspected poachers’ camp. He cautioned his colleagues to remain undetected as they closed in. “When we arrived at the camp, some of the suspected poachers fled abandoning baskets full of gorilla meat,” Afana said.

The rangers immediately cordoned off the camp and began searching the huts. “I noticed someone was in one of the huts and tiptoed towards it,” he said. Gunshots rang out and “in a split second I found myself on the ground some 20 metres from my assailant. I tried to stand up but I could not. It was then that I felt a sharp pain in my waist. I cried out for help and colleagues rushed to my rescue,” said Afana.

The bullet had penetrated deep into his body and shattered his scapular bone (shoulder blade). Afana was comatose for two days and spent six months in the hospital. “I underwent three surgical operations because doctors discovered the bullet had shattered my scapular and left particles of bones floating in my waist.

” Afana spent three more months on crutches undergoing physical therapy. The shooter, a notorious poacher, was arrested and detained at a local law enforcement office, while Cameroon’s wildlife authorities pursued legal action against him. However he was never tried or sentenced. “I was shocked to find him roaming freely in a village where I work,” Afana said.

Faith On The Frontline

 “It was an alarming incident. Each time I think about it tears run down my cheeks. Thank God I am still alive today,” he said, becoming emotional. Afana tears should not be taken as a sign of weakness. Far from it, this father of three remains committed to this job.

“The word Afana means forest in my native Ewondo dialect. It is a natural call for me to protect the forest. Today I am on my feet right here on the frontline, some 700km away from my children. We should be ready to sacrifice to do the job we so much love,” he says. “For the seven years that I have been working as forest ranger, I have seized 10 elephant tusks, rescued a baby chimp and participated in the arrest of 11 poachers. The chimp named Calis is now in a zoo near Yaounde, Cameroon’s political capital,” said Afana.

“I admire his determination,” said Issola Issola Oscar II, the Chief of Sector in charge of wildlife who was leading the anti-poaching operation when the incident occurred. “I felt we were losing him when I saw blood oozing out of his bullet wounds, but this ranger has a strong will to live. As long as we have dedicated people like him, the fight against poaching would produce desired results,” Issola said.

First published in The Post print edition no 01424

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