CAMEROUN :: Cameroon: Ivory trafficker arrested in Bertoua
A wildlife trafficker has been arrested for unlawful possession of ivory tusks and hippo teeth in Bertoua, in the East Region. The arrest was carried out by wildlife officials of the East Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife following an investigation into an ivory trafficking ring in the North and East Regions. The man was arrested as he attempted to transport the illegal products to an unknown destination. The operation was carried out in collaboration with the gendarmerie and with technical assistance from LAGA, a wildlife law enforcement organization.
The 40-year old was found at the Mandjou neighbourhood in Bertoua with a bag he was carrying that contained the ivory tusks and hippo teeth. He was immediately taken to the gendarmerie legion where the bag that had been securely fastened was emptied of its contents. A total of seven ivory tusks and hippo teeth rolled out of the bag. According to preliminary investigations, he had bought the ivory tusks from another trafficker in Ngong a locality some 45 km from Garoua and travelled to Bertoua with the products.
He was just about to move to sell the booty when he was stopped by gendarmes. Captain Alim of the gendarmerie legion in Bertoua declared shortly after the operation that “according to his [the suspect] declarations, he let us to understand that a certain Daouda gave him the trophies to sell in the East Region”. The operation uncovers a trafficking ring that exists between the towns of Bertoua and Garoua. Shortly before his arrest, he had suspiciously inspected the area before taking hold of his bag, a clear indication he knew what he was carrying to be illegal. Gendarmes and wildlife officials who were part of the arresting team demonstrated patience and skills to be as he tried to cautiously move the ivory from the notorious neighbourhood.
Sources say this is not the first time the trafficking ring has been dealing in ivory and other wildlife products that include leopard and lion skins. The suspect equally doubles as a goat
trader at the Ngong market and he claims to be a “marabout” or soothsayer. The movement of the ivory from the North to Bertoua is very unusual as ivory is generally trafficked from the East Region to the North where it is smuggled to Nigeria. Prior investigations had established that the ivory was concealed in a truck transporting cattle from Garoua to Bertoua.
The operation was carried out within the framework of the successful government wildlife law enforcement model that was launched some 15 years ago. The model that has resulted in hundreds of arrest, is being replicated in several other African countries under the network name EAGLE. An operation carried out last week in Gabon where the model was started over 10 years ago resulted in the arrest of a logging company staff with two ivory tusks while LAGA is presently assisting wildlife officials in Djoum following the seizure of over 106 ivory tusks and the arrest of two for illegal possession of parts of protected species. Ivory is one of the most trafficked products in the sub region and this is having devastating impact on the elephant population that is facing serious extinction threats.
According to the 1994 wildlife law, anyone found in possession of part of a protected wildlife species is considered to have killed the animal and is liable to a prison term of up to 3 years and or a fine of up to 10 million francs. The government of Cameroon has been working hard to dismantle the illegal trade in ivory that has other ramifications including security threats. Poachers and traffickers have the ability to generate big money from ivory trafficking and have the resources to undermine security and law enforcement in these countries.