Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Nigerian Arrested In Bertoua Over Ivory Trafficking

A Nigerian national was arrested in Bertoua in the East Region for illegal possession and commercialization of elephant ivory tusks and pangolin scales. The 43-year-old man was arrested during an operation carried out by officials of the East Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with the Gendarmerie. The Last Great Ape Organisation – LAGA provided technical assistance during the operation.

He had boarded a taxi with the contraband loaded in the boot and as he stopped, stepped out and was heading towards a bar, he was met by wildlife officials. The man heading the operation Azemte Mbemo Alain Patrice, is the East Regional Chief of Wildlife and he declared that “The suspect had hired a taxi and was heading for a transaction with a client when he was stopped. He tried to resist but was quickly brought under control by the gendarmerie who were assisting us and taken to our office. This operation was carried out thanks to the collaboration with the Non Governmental Organisation LAGA that assists us in busting wildlife trafficking networks”.

He was found with five bags containing 12 ivory tusks and over 200 kg of giant pangolin scales which are parts of protected wildlife species according to the 1994 wildlife law. According to Azemte Mbemo, the man is known to law officials and is suspected to have been trafficking wildlife species since 2013. He was born in Bertoua and masters the region very well. He used the front business of car spare parts dealer as a cover for his illegal activities but his shop rarely had any car parts.

His principal clients are Chinese buyers and he had a list of Chinese contacts and names which indicate the extent of his business and professionalism. According to sources close to the case, he buys the products from poachers in the East but equally in Congo and Gabon and then sells to Chinese and Nigerian buyers while also transporting the products to Nigeria. The buyers come from Yaounde and Douala.  He owns a storeroom close to Garoua Boulai where he keeps the products according to the sources.

The illegal trade in pangolin scales is fast becoming a huge problem for wildlife officials and in a bid to arrest this situation the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Ngole Philip Ngwese, signed a circular letter in June 2013, suspending the issuing of permits enabling the circulation of pangolin species in the country.   Law enforcement efforts are being focused to hamper the trade and this operation is one of several others that have been carried out within the last couple of years under the framework of the convention signed between the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA).
International partners are equally engaging efforts in this direction. And one of such initiatives is the Mentor PoP Fellowship Programme of the US Fish and Wildlife service that seeks to train emerging conservation leaders from some three Central African countries and Vietnam and develop their capacity for pangolin conservation. These are young and dedicated people who are currently in Yaounde undergoing the mentor programme that shall equip them with skills necessary in tackling threats such as scales trafficking that is menacing the survival of the pangolin.  The project is hosted by the Zoological Society of London at their Bastos office in Yaounde.

source: Eden Newspaper

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