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Soldier Faces Trial For Trafficking Ivory 

By Pegue Manga — A sergeant of the Cameroon army was recently arrested and is currently locked up in the Yokadouma Prison in connection with poaching of elephants.
The sergeant, Moleka Bienvenu, serving in the West Region, was arrested alongside his father-in-law, Philippe Akolea, at midnight on a motorcycle between the village of Koumela and the town of Salapoumbe near Lobeke National Park, East Region.

They were caught with a huge bag containing two tusks, three elephant tails, 14 bullets and 21 pieces of elephant meat. The number of tusks and elephant tails confiscated presupposes that at least four elephants have been killed.

According to the Conservator for Lobeke National Park, Albert Mounga Abana, the elephants were killed in a place called Mikili in a community hunting zone near Lobéké. “We have been tracking the suspected poachers since August 14, once we were informed by local people of the slaughter of the elephants,” he explained.

“We sent out patrol teams and blocked all possible passages.  We organised nocturnal patrols on several parts of the area, trailing some of the suspects as far as Yokadouma,” disclosed Mounga. One of the suspects said to have purchased the ivory tusks is on the run. In the meantime, Sergeant Moleka and his father-in-law Akolea are currently facing trial in the Yokadouma court of First Instance.

Elephants are classified as Class A wildlife species, meaning that they are totally protected in Cameroon and can be hunted upon obtaining a permit from Cameroon’s Wildlife Ministry.  If found guilty, the sergeant could serve up to three years in jail and could be fined between FCFA 3 and 10 million.

Recent reports show that elements of Cameroon army are increasingly getting involved in poaching activities. In early 2012, forest rangers arrested a soldier with bush meat inside Korup National Park in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. 

Then, on June 25, 2012, rangers arrested three soldiers in possession of 4012 kg of bush meat, including six guns near Campo Ma’an National Park in the South Region of the country.  Similar cases of soldiers’ involvement in ivory trafficking have also been reported around the Dja Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the South of Cameroon.

First Published in The Post print edition No 01372