Last week wildlife authorities in Cameroon have seized 216 elephant tusks and 81 elephant tails in a pickup vehicle that belongs to an army colonel in the South Region of the country.
The seizure of 216 tusks means poachers have killed at least 128 elephants. However, it remains unclear if all the tusks and tails were collected from elephants poached in protected areas in Southeast Cameroon alone or from neighbouring Gabon and Congo Republic.
This is one of the biggest seizures rangers and the police have carried out in Cameroon and the third mega seizure of elephant tusks in 2017. On November 10, police seized 158 ivory tusks, 26 bags of pangolin scales weighing 1050kg and 124 African grey parrot heads from three traffickers in the city of Douala. In March 2017, customs officers arrested two traffickers in Bertoua, East Region of Cameroon, with 159 ivory tusks. The court later slammed a US$ 500,000 fine and five-month imprisonment terms on the convicts.
This latest seizure brings the number of elephant tusks seized in 2017 alone to at least 600, the majority of them coming from the southeast of the country.
“WWF congratulates wildlife officials for these seizures. The government of Cameroon nonetheless has to toughen the war against wildlife crime in order to save the last elephants standing,” states Alain Bernard Ononino, WWF Central Africa Wildlife Crime Programme Coordinator.
“Central Africa, particularly Cameroon is losing its elephant population at an alarming rate and this calls for urgent action to protect them,” he says.
Rangers of the Dja Biosphere Reserve seized the latest tusks and tails on December 11 in a locality straddling Mintom and Djoum, considered a transit hub for ivory and arms trafficking within the central African sub region. They intercepted the heavily loaded pickup around 11pm with two individuals (a suspected poaching kingpin and a driver) on board who attempted to escape arrest.
According to ongoing investigations, the suspects, now in police custody, allegedly work for a high-ranking military officer whom it is claimed has been using his privileged position and state assets to carry out illegal activities for several years now including suspected poaching and wildlife crime.
Wildlife censuses carried out by WWF and partners in four Central African countries have revealed that forest elephant populations have declined by approximately 66 per cent over eight years in an area covering almost 6 million hectares.