Two people suspected of trafficking in ivory were arrested at the Bastosneighbourhood in Yaounde on October 9, by wildlife officials who were backed up by a team of police officers during a crackdown operation.
The two traffickers who arrived on board a taxi, packed the car infront of a popular bar at the junction popularly known as Carrefour Bastos and one them went into the bar and remerged minutes later. He then went into the taxi and collected a plastic bag which he grasped nervously and dashed straight into the bar while the rain thundered outside. As he headed into the bar, he was tracked by wildlife officials who would arrest him inside the bar while the second who waited impatiently in the taxi was also arrested Two ivory tusks were found in the plastic bag. The two traffickers were then driven to the 10th District Police Station where their interrogation began and they would be locked up afterthis initial proceeding ended. The operation was carried out by the Centre Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife with the technical assistance of a wildlife law enforcement support body called LAGA.
According to sourcesclose to the case and speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the traffickers, a 45-year old man,had been tracked for close to 6 months for his involvement in the illegal ivory trade. He is suspected to have a ring of poachers who supply him with raw ivory while he deals directly with Chinese traffickers. Shortly before his arrest, he had driven his taxi carin from Bafia where it is suspected he went to collect wildlife products. He equally made a brief tour of the Carrefour Bastosarea to ensure all was well with doing an ivory transaction without risk of getting arrest there. His cautiousness, wildlife law enforcement experts say, is a measure of his professionalism and expertise in the trade.
The traffickers are presently behind bars and are expected to answer to charges of illegal possession, circulation and commercialization of parts of protected wildlife species according to the 1994 wildlife law. The law stipulates that they could face up to 3 years imprisonment and or a fine of up to 10 million CFA Francs.
The illegal trade in ivory is considered to be the main driver pushing elephatsto extinction in the country and the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlfie has been committing huge efforts in wildlife law enforcement. This is considered to be the most urgent conservation measure to hamper the free flow of ivory into these illegal markets.As a show of determination to eradicate the illegal trade in ivory, government has been collaborating with stakeholders including LAGA for over a decade now to properly enforce the laws. Besides law enforcement, last year close to 3,5 tons of ivory were destroyed by government to indicate its determination to fight the trade to its bitter end.
Elephants are classified as either partially protected or totally protected in the country depending on the size of their tusks and as each of the tusk seized from the two that were seized weighed less than 5kg, the animals from which these tusks were obtained are therefore listed in the totally protected category. Totally protected animals are given the highest protection in the country and shall neverbe hunted or killed. Cameroon is home to two elephant species, the forest elephant and the larger savannah elephant and both are severely threatened by the illegal trade that stimulates poaching for its ivory.