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Wildlife Law Enforcement Gaining Grounds In Central Africa 

By Daniel Gwarbarah

Wildlife law is fast making in-roots in countries of the Central African sub region with Cameroon being acclaimed for taking the lead. The fight against wildlife law offenders, which took off in 2003 in Cameroon with a national pilot programme, has been receiving technical assistance from the Last Great Ape Organisation, LAGA.

Seized Ivories

"So far, the programme has raised Cameroon from zero prosecution of wildlife criminals to at least one major wildlife criminal behind bars per week," an assessment document from LAGA states. LAGA notes that the programme is now spreading in other countries of the sub region notably Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

The replication of the programme in Congo-Brazzaville recently resulted in a major operation leading to the arrest of three wildlife traffickers who were caught in possession of some 40 kg of elephant tusks. The traffickers were nabbed immediately as they reportedly crossed the river from DRC with the ivories. It is also reported that prior to that operation, hardened ivory traffickers were tracked, arrested and detained in Bangui, Central African Republic.

Considering the success of the pilot programme in Cameroon, the assessment report notes, the government of Cameroon is increasingly being hailed at international environmental conferences as a world leader in wildlife law enforcement especially those organised by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES.

The recent arrest of traffickers in Douala with tusks of about one ton ripped off from around 100 elephants has added another red feather to the country’s wildlife law enforcement cap.
The Post gathered that the ivory confiscated from the traffickers in the sub region are currently being collected for a DNA test in order to determine their real origin especially as it is suspected that the stock was on transit from neighbouring countries to the international black market.

The Director of LAGA, Ofir Drori, expresses his conviction that "the illegal ivory trade, a well organised crime of international dimension, is being fuelled by corruption. Fighting corruption is the key for arresting and prosecuting the heads of the criminal ivory trafficking cartels," he declared to the press recently. This assertion corroborates declarations by bush meat traffickers and poachers of the Nkolndongo Market that they are usually tipped by some forest guards each time Forestry and Wildlife officials come for control.

The wildlife law enforcement organ holds that like gold in the 19th century America, the quest for wildlife resources in Central Africa is fraught with problems of lawlessness. "But the government of Cameroon through MINFOF is now in a renewed alert mode to track down and sanction those involved in ivory trade in particular and other protected wildlife species in general. The government is giving no room for traffickers to deplete her wildlife heritage," a LAGA information sheet observes.

"Our country has in place strict laws on wildlife. Cameroon is seen more and more by the international community as a land of wildlife conservation and a land where wildlife law…is well managed," Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, is quoted as saying.

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