Two wildlife traffickers to appear in court

CAMEROUN :: Two wildlife traffickers to appear in court :: CAMEROON

Two wildlife traffickers shall be standing trial at the Court of First Instance of Yaounde on March 25, 2021 to answer to charges of lion and leopard skins trafficking. The case will be heard for the second time after the first hearingwas adjourned by the presiding judge on March 25 for all the suspects to be present and forpresentation of evidence and arguments.

The two were arrested in possession of onelion skin and a leopard skin on August 6, last year during a crackdown operation carried out by wildlife officials of the Center Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with the Nlongkak Gendarmerie Brigade. The arrest was carried out with the technical assistanceof the Last Great Ape Organization - LAGA, a wildlife law enforcement organization that is equally assisting in the legal procedure of the case. One of the traffickers is a retired high school teacher whom according to a source, who requests for anonymity, gave the skins to her accomplice to sell. She was later caught by wildlife officials at the Efoulan neighborhood after the arrest of her accomplice with the illegal wildlife products.

The illegal trade in the skins of lions and leopards has seen their populations plummet to alarming numbers rendering the big cats vulnerable and may be on the verge of extinction in some parts of the continent according to conservationists. Whereas big cats are key species that play an important role in the ecosystem. They warrant more protection and their vast habitats that support many forms of life and entire ecosystems that are essential to the health of our planet.

Their protection is falling short as studies show that a century ago there were approximately 200,000 lions in Africa and that number has fallen to some 20.000 today according Peter Lindsey, Director of the Lion Recovery Fund. Cameroonian born lion specialist Pricelia Tumenta states that Cameroon is an important country for the species with its lion population of over 270 individuals second only to the DRC in the Central African sub-region. But the illegal trade in their skins is a big threat to the small population that is found basically in the north of the country.

Lions are listed as vulnerable species inthe Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN). Lions as well as leopards are totally protected by the wildlife lawof the country and if they are found guilty, the two may face a prison term of up to 3 years and or pay a fine of up to 10 million francs, according to the 1994 wildlife law.

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