Arrests made as Cameroon elephant poaching crisis spreads
Twelve suspected poachers have been arrested and 14 elephant tusks confiscated outside protected areas in southeast Cameroon this week. Forest rangers carried out the arrests and seizures near Boumba-Bek and Nki National Parks after receiving intelligence information from village monitoring groups formed by WWF.
The anti-poaching operation comes just weeks after the Cameroon military entered a national park in the North Region of the country where poachers have slaughtered hundreds of elephants since January. Up to 12,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory, most in Central Africa.
In southeast Cameroon, rangers confiscated six firearms and 30kg of elephant meat in the joint anti-poaching operation that involved rangers from both national parks. Two other suspects are said to be on the run. The confiscated tusks are being kept under seal while the detained suspects await trial.
The adjoining national parks of Boumba-Bek and Nki are home an estimated 4,000 forest elephants according to a 2006 survey carried out by WWF. But elephants in these protected areas are under constant pressure from poachers from within Cameroon as well as from neighbouring Congo Brazzaville.
Achille Mengamenya, Park Warden of Boumba-Bek, says the poaching suspects have been operating in the area for a year and have evaded arrest several times in the past. "Preliminary investigations show this group of poachers has very strong links with a sister group based in Souanke, Congo Brazzaville. But they poach elephants mostly in Nki National Park," Achille said.
"With the connivance of some local people ivory is surreptitiously transported through the towns of Messok and Lomie in the East Region of Cameroon to Douala," the park warden said. "Four poachers, who were arrested in December 2011 with 44 ivory tusks near Lobéké National Park, also attested to having links with accomplices in Souanke. It is clear that the fight against poaching in the border areas between Cameroon, Congo and Central African Republic has to be stepped up to save what is left of elephants in the region."
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Elephant image via Shutterstock