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Fighting Illegal Wood Exploiters In Southeast Cameroon 

By Fidelis Pegue Manga

Illegal wood exploiters operating along Cameroon’s borders with Congo Brazzaville are no longer at ease following efforts to stop their activities. A mission organised by the Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife, for Boumba and Ngoko, spent four days tracking and arresting suspected illegal exploiters.

"Eight chainsaws and 9 m3 of Ayous wood species were seized," explained the Chief of Sector in charge of Forest for Boumba and Ngoko Division, Eric Kaffo. Five suspects were issued administrative summones. Illegal logging is recurrent along the Ngoko and Boumba rivers separating Cameroon and Congo Brazzaville. This activity is driven by high demand for wood in neighbouring Congo.

The logs are sawed, placed on rafts and transported down river to Ouesso a town in neighbouring Congo. "Most of the operations are carried out in the night and are suspected to be backed by some influential people," said Olivier Tegomo, WWF Senior Research Assistant in the area. "From Moloundou, one could hear the rumbling of chainsaws late into the wee hours of the morning. However, most of the rumbling comes from the Congo side of the border, where we cannot immediately intervene," he explained.

A study carried out by WWF between 2008 and 2009 revealed that an estimated 5000 m3 of timber is illegally exploited in this area that borders Lobéké and south of Nki National Parks. Some of the trees are felled inside forest concessions under exploitation by logging companies and in the agro-forestry zone.

Illegal logging poses serious menace to the forest’s biodiversity. "Wildlife habitats and elephant corridors can easily be destroyed because illegal wood exploiters do not respect any legal procedures when carrying out their activities," explained Dr. Zacharie Nzooh of WWF. "We have had cases where logging is carried out in marshy areas resulting in blockage of small streams and rivers," Nzooh said. This does not augur well for the ecosystem. 

Illegally exploited wood being transported on rafts to Congo

"Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has put in place strategies to combat illegal logging," revealed Kaffo. In Southeast Cameroon several operations have been carried out resulting in the arrest of suspects and seizure of wood and chainsaws. Recently conservation partners agreed to devote 10 percent of funds destined for anti-poaching to fight illegal logging. WWF and MINFOF are also helping local communities to acquire and exploit community forests with seven initiatives already on course in the area.

"We think illegal logging can be reduced if wood from community forest is supplied to the same market in Congo," said Alphonse Ngniado, WWF Forest Officer.  "Illegal logging remains harmful to the community because proceeds go to the coffers of individuals to the detriment of the entire population. The administrative and forestry authorities must do their best to check this illicit practice," Ngniado said.

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