Three people have been arrested in the Sangmelima in connection with killing of baby elephants and the trafficking of ivory tusks. The arrest was carried out by the Dja and Lobo Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with the state counsel chambers, the police and the gendarmerie. The first two suspects were arrested as they sat drinking while a third person was arrested several minutes later in the same town.
Five tiny elephant tusks and a tail were found inside in a red knapsack they had with them at the moment of the arrest. The arresting team made a quick move that caught them by surprise and gave no chance for escape. The operation was carried out following an investigation that was launched when information was out that some baby elephants had been shot and killed at the Dja Biosphere Reserve. A non-governmental organization called LAGA assisted wildlife authorities during the operation.
According to sources close to the operation, during the interrogation of the first two traffickers following their arrest, the third trafficker who was roaming free called one of them to know if he could come and collect his share of the money from the sale of the tusks. Police immediately sprang into action to locate and apprehend him. Prior investigations show that he is the poacher suspected to have recently shot and killed baby elephants at the Dja Biosphere Reserve.
The very tiny elephant tusks that measured roughly 15 cm in length each and weighed less than a kilogramme were still very fresh and stinking. They probably had just been pulled out from the head of the newly killed baby elephants. Seeing the tiny little elephant tusks was distressing and Mbarga Atangana who is the wildlife chief at the divisional delegation declared: “We weighed the five ivory tusks and it couldn’t weigh up to one kilogramme,” while adding, “we want sanctions to be applied and their severity should be commensurate to the killing of these baby elephants. We hope justice shall do its job.”
Nous avons pesé les 5 pointes d’ivoire qui n’atteignent même pas 1kg.
Bon, on aimerait bien que les sanctions soient appliquées, et qu’elles soient aussi sévères, à la hauteur des éléphanteaux si on peut déjà le dire comme ça, qui ont été abattus. Enfin, on espère que la justice fera son travail.
The traffickers used a canoe to cross into the Dja reserve and according to the same sources, travelled through very difficult parts of the forest to avoid being spotted by ecoguards. The areas are not only difficult to cross but also difficult to reach for ecoguards keeping watch over the reserve. Poachers have been entering the reserve through this route some reports show. The traffickers equally activated a chain of several small traffickers and poachers who were at their employ around the reserve. They also trafficked in pangolin scales.
One of the traffickers is the son of a retired policeman whose gun, as disclosed by the same sources, is suspected to have been used in killing the elephants. A similar arrest was done by wildlife officials in 2017 when three people were arrested in Ebolowa for shooting and killing elephants and attempting to sell their tusks. They too had used the gun of a retired policeman.
One of the traffickers is based in Djoum that is considered to be an ivory hotspot in the country and close to the Dja Biosphere Reserve that holds the remaining populations of elephants in the country. This reserve is blessed with natural borders such as rivers hampering easy access but it seems poachers are discovering new ways of entering the reserve. The arrest is attracting some interest in Sangmelima as the suspects were well known for their lavish lifestyles. When news broke out on their arrest, family members as well as one of their relatives who is a sheriff bailiff called at the wildlife office. The bailiff requested to discuss with wildlife officials on the issue and was promptly told to hold while the writing of the complaint reports against the traffickers were ongoing and he would later leave. The traffickers are presently behind bars.