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Spying On Ivory Trafficking Trail 

By Fidelis Pegue Manga

CameroonPostline.com — The bumpy road linking the towns of Yokadouma-Messok-Lomie and Abong Mbang in the East Region of Cameroon is essentially plied by trucks ferrying timber and cars transporting people and cargoes.

Of late, this road that flanks two key protected areas, the Dja Biosphere Reserve and Nki National Park, serves as conveyor belt for the smuggling of ivory out of the region. Facing systematic pressure from eco-guards, a clutch of notorious elephant poachers operating in further east of Cameroon have beat a retreat farther away and sought succor up north in the towns of Lomie and Messok.

“They have recruited impoverished locals who help slaughter elephants and smuggle off ivory,” said Expedit Fouda, WWF Park Assistant for Nki. “They target elephants in the north of Nki National Park and east of the Dja Reserve,” he said. “Proof of this is the number of people detained between December 2012 and April 2013. “11 suspect poachers were detained in connection with ivory trafficking during this period,” Fouda said.

“Traffickers smuggle ivory tusks sometimes on motorbikes, small vehicles or timber trucks,” says Ali Musa, an eco-guard based in Messok, a small logging town. In March this year we rounded up four suspects in possession of elephant meat and tail,” he said.

But they have so far not been able to trace the white collar poachers behind the trafficking. Strategy put in place to fight this menace and break the network, is thwarted by corruption and complicity of some law enforcement agents. On March 7, two people were arrested in possession of two ivory tusks, thanks to tip off from informants.

It took the unflinching firmness of the eco-guard at the control post for the poachers to be arrested and sent to stand trial. The traffickers tried to bribe their way with FCFA 500,000 (1000 US dollars), which was flatly rejected by the eco-guard, though the gendarme officer at the checkpoint was spoiling to receive the money. “Your colleague is a fool.

How on earth could he reject such an offer,” he blurted. “He could have asked for more because the traffickers were ready to offer FCFA 800, 000,” the incensed gendarme said. “How can we become rich if we do not take advantage of such opportunities,” he continued.

“The situation on this trail is symptomatic of the moral crisis plaguing anti-poaching effort in Cameroon,” said Gilles Etoga, Program Manager for WWF TRIDOM. “In collaboration with other partners involved in the fight against poaching, we have established a system to track and sanction those found guilty of corruption,” Gilles said.

First published in The Post print edition no 01439

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