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Illegal Forest, Wildlife Exploitation Declining In Cameroon 

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

CameroonPostline.com — Wanton illegal exploitation of forest resources and the capture, detention, killing or exportation of protected animal and bird species is witnessing a decline in Cameroon.

In a communiqué No 0225/C/MINFOF/CAB/BNC/C2 of 13 September, 2013, signed by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Philip Ngole Ngwese, such a success story is attributed to the stringent repressive measures being taken by officials of MINFOF. In addition to this, a strong communication tool whereby forestry and wildlife crimes committed as well as fines or imprisonment terms inflicted on perpetrators as reported in the media is also playing the role of deterrence.

The list of companies and individuals indicted in the communiqué for the third-quarter of 2013 has greatly reduced compared to forestry and wildlife criminals who were tracked, identified and exposed by the National Control Brigade of MINFOF in 2012. While the amount in fines and penalties inflicted by MINFOF and the courts in accordance with the forestry and wildlife law of 1994 stood at some FCFA 150 million last year, it moved to over FCFA 1 billion this year.

The decline in the rate of illegal forest exploitation, according to MINFOF sources, is clearly verified and determined within the ranks of legalised licensed forest exploitation companies.
“The said companies are dominantly engaged in the forest certification process especially as their customers are exigent when it comes to the respect of laid legislation,” Flavien Ngibaot, Head of the National Control Brigade in MINFOF, is quoted to have declared in a press report.

He added that their main concern now is with those operating fraudulently without licenses.
Going by the September 13, 2013 communiqué, a majority of the companies and individuals charged with offences are in the law courts across the country to answer for their crimes. Such companies and individuals constitute the category that received notification to pay fines corresponding to their offence(s) but who failed to contest the offence(s) within 15 days as required by the law.

The MINFOF communiqué states that the offences as committed by the forest exploitation companies and some individuals for which they have been summoned to court are as varied.
They include the non-respect of technical norms in forest exploitation; unauthorised exploitation; the use of forged documents; violation of technical norms in wood transformation; exploiting the forest beyond limits accorded by MINFOF; failure to stamp trade marks on exploited wood; exploiting the forest beyond the validity period and complicity in unauthorised forest exploitation.

Others are also facing the court for trespassing, clearing, farming and destruction of trees in council and communal forests, as well as illegal exploitation in State forests. MINFOF also highlights a number of cases relating to wildlife crime either pending in civil or military courts or the ones whose verdicts have already been delivered in favour of MINFOF with perpetrators inflicted fines and prison terms.

Such wildlife crimes as outlined in the document include: illegal capture, detention, killing and circulation of trophies of totally protected animal and bird species; illegal possession of smoked elephant meat; illegal possession, trade and importation of ostriches; illegal exportation of parrots and ivory; hunting in protected areas; possession and movement with fire arms in protected areas without authorisation.

The illegal possession and commercialisation of totally protected species such as sea turtles and their shells, pangolin scales, skulls of chimpanzees and drills; illegal capture of tortoises; illegal possession and trading in elephant tusks as well as the falsification and use of falsified MINFOF and CITES administrative documents are some of the charges the wildlife criminals are responding to in the various competent courts.

The Post was told that each time one’s name appears on the list of forestry and wildlife criminals, the Ministry would also stop, with immediate effect, the issuance of administrative working documents to the concerned. Even authorisation to vehicles belonging to the indicted which could be circulating wood fraudulently exploited or poached game is also withdrawn by MINFOF officials, The Post further gathered.

While the forestry law admits that fines could be paid to repair the damages, that on wildlife is reportedly stringent on arguments that it is not easy to regenerate animal resources killed.
It should be noted that forest exploitation constitutes one of the three main revenue generation sectors of Cameroon. It is ranked after agriculture and petroleum. Basing on a 2011 report, MINFOF officials disclosed that the forestry and wildlife sub-sector injected a circa FCFA 809.63 billion into the national budget. It offers more over 200,000 jobs in the formal and informal sectors.

First published in The Post print edition no 01478

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