23 November 2017

Cameroon: Three arrested for trafficking ivory tusks, parrot heads and pangolin scales

The police carried out the seizure on November 10 in what seemed to have beena vast crackdown on ivory and traffickers in wild animal parts in the city. The suspects told the police the tusks, scales and parrot heads were collected in theSoutheast of Cameroon to be smuggled to neighboring Nigeria.The three suspects are now in pretrial detention.

This is the second time in nine months huge number of ivory and pangolin scales have been seized from traffickers. In March 2017, customs officers arrested two traffickers in Bertoua, East Region of Cameroon with 159 ivory tusks. The court later slammed a US$ 454 435as

damages to be paid to wildlife administration and four-month imprisonment terms on the convicts. The 158 tusks seized means that the traffickers killed 79 elephants. This brings the number of elephants killed to 160in less than nine months.

Elephants, pangolin and the African grey parrots are considered endangered and Cameroon's wildlife law regulates the killing or capture of these species. It would appear rising prices in kilogram of ivory and increased demand for pangolin scales in Southeast Asia havetoughened the resolve of traffickers to continue in the illicit business. A WWF Central Africa Biomonitoring Survey, carried out between 2014 and 2016 showed thatcentral Africa lost almost 18000 elephants in the last 10 years.

This latest seizure came at a time Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) and partners like WWF have redoubled efforts to fight wildlife crime. Rangers, police and customs officers have arrested more than 55 elephant poachers and traffickerssince 2017. Several law courts have slammed heavy jail termson poachers in recent months. In February 2017, the Cameroon government ordered the burning of three tons of pangolin scales seized from traffickers. Earlier in April 2016 Cameroon ordered the burning of 2,000 ivory tusks and1,753 ivory objects in a move that was aimed at dissuading traffickers. However, the hemorrhage is persisting.

"We have noticed an increase in the number of ivory tusks seized in the past months," saysAlain Bernard Ononino, head of wildlife law enforcement for WWF in Central Africa. "This year alone more than 350 elephant tusks have been seized.WWF congratulates the government, especially the police for carrying out these seizures," states Ononino. "We are encouraging the courts to ensure the suspects are given maximum jail terms in accordance with Cameroon's wildlife and forestry law," he adds.

It is worth noting that illegal trade in wildlife, including timber and fish comprises the fourth largest global illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting of products and currency, and human trafficking, and is estimated to be worth at least US$19 billion per year. It is a threat to the security of the state as studies have shown that money generated from sales of ivory is being usedto finance terrorism.

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