Thursday, November 15, 2018
You are here: Home » Environment » Pressure Mounts On Elephants As Arms Circulation Increases Bookmark This Page

Pressure Mounts On Elephants As Arms Circulation Increases 

By Fidelis Pegue Manga — In May, 2013, forest rangers near Boumba-Bek National Park in the East Region of Cameroon, following a lead provided by informants, seized an AK 47 (Kalashnikov) war gun, including 70 bullets. The suspected elephant poacher, who was carrying the gun, fled abandoning his weapon. Wildlife authorities in this area viewed this as an act of bravery given that the rangers were unarmed. This seizure provides inkling into the arms proliferation, especially war guns, in the southeast of Cameroon.

Rangers and elements of Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR, have carried out several raids in the towns of Moloundou, Kika, and Libongo on the borders with Congo Brazzaville and Central African Republic respectively, where Kalashnikov carrying elephant poachers have been operating. The result has been the seizure of some 20 Kalashnikovs and more than 150 ivory tusks, mostly by forest rangers since 2008. At least 22 people have been arrested and charged before a military tribunal in accordance with Cameroonian law.

WWF’s investigations revealed that in 2008, Kalashnikovs coming mostly from Congo Brazzaville were sold at FCFA 100,000 (US dollar 200) in the black markets. Recent information shows Kalashnikovs are now traded for as small as FCFA 50,000 (US dollar 100) by smugglers from neighbouring countries. Violence and political instability in Central African Republic has exacerbated the situation this year. At least five Kalashnikovs have been seized from suspected poachers and 30 elephants have been killed since the start of 2013.

There is also an increase in the number of illegally owned light fire arms, too. Some 45 guns, including a Kalashnikov, were seized from poachers during anti-poaching operation carried out in the area in April 2013. This was the first time such huge number of guns had been seized in a single operation. Some 39 rangers supported by 26 soldiers of Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Battalion, also arrested 20 people during the operation.

“Before we launched this operation we had information of proliferation of arms, especially in the border areas,” said Djogo Toumouksala, Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife for the East Region of Cameroon. Forest rangers searched places where illegally obtained guns were hidden and discovered some suspects buried guns in the ground to avoid seizure.

Supported by WWF’s African Elephant Programme, the anti-poaching operation came at the backdrop of armed conflict in neighbouring Central African Republic. Armed clashes between rangers and poachers during the operation showed how fearless poachers had become.

Two suspects were wounded during separate clashes. “If there is one lesson this operation has taught us, it is that there are more guns in circulation, poachers are well armed and no longer hesitate to shoot at forest rangers on sight,” says Gilles Etoga, WWF Project Manager for Boumba-Bek and Nki National Parks.

Cameroonian law makes provision for individuals to own and use guns, excluding war guns, for hunting. This is only possible after issuance of a gun license and hunting permit by a competent authority. But 97 per cent of guns seized during anti-poaching operations are illegally owned. “The situation does not bode well for wildlife, especially elephants,” says Djogo.

First published in The Post print edition no 01439

    Add a Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *