Cameroun: Pangolin scales traffickers to appear at Bonanjo Court :: CAMEROON
The third hearing of the case against against six traffickers arrested with over 700kg of pangolin scales, shall be heard at the Bonanjo Court of First Instance in Douala, on October 26. During the first two hearings, the case was adjourned because three of the six traffickers failed to attend the hearing following their arrest and release on bail in August 2018.
Their failure to appear in court raised the possibility of their escape as two of the three main traffickers were from the Central African Republic where the majority of the pangolin scales were smuggled into Cameroon shortly before their seizure in Bonanpriso, Douala. One of the traffickers had boarded a plane from Bangui to Douala for the transaction before his arrest.
Officials shall be finding out if the traffickers shall appear in court after failing to do so on two occasions with anger clearly rising in some quarters involved in the matter. It should be noted that during a crackdown operation, it took severalhours for a full team of police officers from the judicial police and wildlife officers to track and arrest the 6 traffickers who belong to an international syndicate of pangolin scales trafficking.
The traffickersdemonstrated elaborate planning to avoid arrest while some attempted to run away but were stopped by the team. These efforts may have been in vain, if suspicions are confirmed that the traffickers have slipped back to the Central African Republic. And it equally raises the question as to why some of the bail bonds are very soft and provide no deterrence that may force the accused to appear in court. Some wildlife law enforcement experts argue that it is dangerous to grant bails in cases concerning flagrant delicto or persons caught red handed because they simply return to their trade, trafficking in wildlife species, whereas they should have been behind bars.
Majority of the scales that were confiscated in Douala were from the giant pangolin which is an animal that is threatened with extinction, The operation that led to the confiscation, was technically assisted by LAGA, a wildlife law enforcement support body that assists government in the application of the wildlife law. Prior investigations showed the traffickers were linked to rhino horn and lion trophies trafficking.
In January 2017, the Bonaberi Court of First Instancesentenced two Chinese nationals who were arrested with over 5 tons of pangolin scales ready for illegal exportto a jail term of3 months. This decision was considered in many quarters as an extremely weak punishment for people who had been responsible for the killing of thousands of pangolins, destroying the country’s endangered wildlife in the process.These rulings and other decisions at the level of the judiciary is becoming a matter of concern for conservationists because the traffickers may simply return to running their illegal business, at the expense of the country’s endangered wildlife.