CAMEROUN :: Cameroon: Family arrested over ivory trafficking.
A 50-year old man, his wife and nephew were arrested in Sangmelima, on November 15 with four ivory tusks and giant pangolin scales.
The three were arrested during a sting operation carried out in the town by the Dja and Lobo Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with the Gendarmerie territorial brigade and LAGA, a wildlife law enforcement NGO. The main suspect arrived from Oveng with two ivory tusks and a bag of giant pangolin scales the night before their arrest. The two others joined him and the team set out looking forward to selling the products.
They arrived on board a car with the products to make business in the morning of November 15 and wildlife officials quickly surrendered the car, according to a source close to the case that asked not to be named. The principal suspect had been tracked for over two weeks and narrowly escaped arrest a week before he was finally apprehended. According to the source, he bought the ivory in Gabon and was just about to make huge profits when he was arrested. He equally specialised in trafficking giant pangolin scales which he sold in Yaounde, precisely at the Nkolndongo and Mvogbi neightourhood. His wife, according to the source, had played a major part in setting up the transaction on the day and accompanied her husband in ensuring it moves according to plan.
According to preliminary investigations, he bought two ivory tusks from a fellow Cameroonian trafficker while in Gabon. He then travelled to Oveng with the tusks and to Sangmelima. He trades in cocoa beans also and the investigations show he generally would conceal wildlife products in cocoa bags as he moved from Oveng to Sangmelim and then to Yaounde where he did most of his business. In moving the wildlife products from Oveng on the night before he arrest, he made sure that he circumvented police checkpoints and ensured the products got to Sangmelima safely. He collected pangolin scales in villages around Oveng.
The second suspect bought two ivory tusks from Yen, a village in the South Region that is known for the illicit ivory business between baka pygmies and ivory traffickers. He caught up with his uncle for an ivory transaction on the day the three were arrested.Wildlife traffickers are reported be hiring baka pygmies of this village to roam the forests to as far as Gabon in search of elephants to shoot. They then sell the ivory tusks to the traffickers.
The lady was released on bail and the two others remanded in custody while all three are facing charges of killing of protected wildlife, unlawful possession and circulation of parts of these species which are offences punishable by the wildlife law of 1994 which stipulates that anyone found in possession of parts of a protected wildlife species is considered to have killed the animal. The punishment may be up to 3 years imprisonment and or fine of up to 10 million CFA francs.
The arrest comes on the heels of a major operation carried out in Douala by police of the mobile intervention unit that seize 158 ivory tusks, over one ton of pangolin scales and dozens of parrot feathers and heads. The haul was heading for the Douala port to be illegally exported to Nigeria. The case file was retroceded to the Littoral Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife that is currently establishing a legal procedure against the three, with the technical assistance of LAGA.
The operations demonstrate a probable link between ivory and pangolin scales trafficking This link may be gradually becoming clearer in focus as ivory traffickers are taking advantage of their long-groomed skills in handling bulk to engaging in pangolin trafficking that warrants bulk management skills. The expertise needed in concealing aand transporting ivory is clearly adapted to handling of pangolin scales and with the recent surge in prices and demand for pangolins scales, many ivory traffickers have shifted into pangolin scales trafficking or simply included scales trafficking to their portfolio. This can only be extremely bad news for law enforcement agencies because ivory traffickers are among the most sophisticated in the business.