More than a ton of illegal bushmeat – including primate and elephant meat – was seized in the Congo Basin last week and 15 wildlife poachers arrested in an unprecedented police operation.
The Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife organized a major week-long antipoaching operation in the region in tandem with the national military. More than 2,200 pounds of bush meat was uncovered, including remains from several protected species: gorillas, elephants, and chimpanzees. They also confiscated more than 30 guns from the suspected poachers, including high-caliber rifles and illegally owned AK-47s.
One of the biggest threats to Congo Basin wildlife is poaching. Finding elephant and gorilla meat during the raid suggests the presence of organized poaching networks supplying luxury bushmeat for major urban areas. Another alarming finding is the large number of military weapons that were confiscated, confirming fears that these poaching syndicates are better armed than park guards and making this type of crime much more “efficient” and lethal to both wildlife and their protectors.
Among those arrested was a municipal councilor, suspected of being a “white-collar elephant poacher” based in the town of Moloundou, south of Nki National Park. Three other notorious elephant poachers were arrested around Boumba Bek and Lobeke national parks.
WWF is now calling on the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to push for the swift prosecution of the 15 suspected poachers arrested to properly complete last week’s spectacular anti-poaching drive.
“The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife deserves praise in taking this bold step to check what had become a rampant and uncontrolled destruction of species by a few individuals to the detriment of the local population,” said Natasha K. Quist, regional representative for WWF in Central Africa.
The operation was carried out in targeted villages with the help of local traditional rulers and the local population. The teams also carried out in-forest and maritime patrols during which two elephant tusks, three elephant tails and great ape parts were confiscated.
For almost two decades, WWF has been active in southeast Cameroon, working to support both the authorities and the local people in their efforts to protect a unique forest environment and the precious ecosystems it contains.
Antipoaching efforts spearheaded by Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, and supported by WWF, so far have produced significant results.
Some 59 people were charged with forest and wildlife related crime in the Southeast of Cameroon in 2008. Among the accused, 54 face charges of poaching protected species and illegally carrying guns (among which were about 20 war guns, or Kalashnikovs) while five were accused of illegal wood exploitation. The courts so far have heard and decided 49 cases, sentencing 47 people to between 10 days and three-year jail terms. The court also has issued fines ranging between FCFA 27,000 and 2.7 million (approx. between $50 and $5,000U.S.). Two of the suspects have been acquitted, while 10 are still facing trial.
Learn more about WWF's work in the Congo Basin.
Learn more about WWF's work with species, including elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees.