Army to fight Cameroon elephant poachers

2012-03-02 22:16

Douala - Cameroon has launched a military offensive to flush out elephant poachers from a remote national park in the country's northeast near the border with Chad.

Defence Minister Alain Mebe Ngo'o announced the operation on state television late Thursday, saying that the country needed to take action against the poachers believed to be from Sudan.

In just eight weeks, the World Wildlife Fund estimates that the poachers have decimated the elephant population, killing between 200 and 300 of the roughly 400 elephants in the Bouba N'Djida National Park.

The wildlife group said in a statement released on Friday that the military operation was launched on Wednesday night after a high-level meeting between the minister of defense and the minister in charge of wildlife.

The group cited unnamed sources confirming that over 100 Cameroonian soldiers had entered the park on Thursday to secure the area from poachers.

According to the wildlife group, the heavily armed poachers entered Cameroonian territory illegally via the border with Chad in order to harvest the ivory.

"The poachers, who are reportedly Arabic speakers traveling on horseback, are believed to be from Sudan and it is widely speculated that the vast volumes of ivory are destined for Asian markets," said the WWF.

The government has been under pressure to take action from both environmental groups and the European Union, ever since graphic images of the slaughtered elephants were published.

"We saw this situation coming," said Basile Yapo Monssan, the WWF country director. "We have consistently alerted the government on the alarming growing rate of poaching in Cameroon. This is their wake-up call," Yapo says.

In 2010, WWF wrote a letter to the prime minister saying that drastic measures were needed to stop the crossborder poaching. In 2011, a group of 12 ambassadors followed up with a second letter.

Lamine Sebogo, the group's elephant coordinator, said that northern Cameroon's elephant population represents 80% of the total population of savanna elephants in all of Central Africa.

"Any remaining elephant population remains at high risk until military forces are able to secure the area," said the WWF. "It is absolutely vital that the [military] exercise is not a publicity stunt - the poachers must be engaged, arrested and prosecuted to send out a strong message."

  • Ashleigh - 2012-03-02 22:24

    Wow, if only South Africa was that pro-active against rhino poachers....

      mlungisi.botha - 2012-03-03 08:51

      Cmon Ash, you call ignoring calls to intervene from WWF and government reps and only doing so when 200 to 300 out of 400 elephants have been slaughtered proactive? Seems like our response to the rhino situation here in SA is the same. We'll wait till there's a few hundred left before our army's sent in. Make's you wonder whose palms are being greased to look the other way - both here and in Cameroun, that is!!

      Ashleigh - 2012-03-03 18:10

      Hi Mlungi, no for sure, I fully agree with you. It did occur to me too that they sat on the fence for quite a while, however, one wonders that when (sadly, not if) South Africa reaches that stage of only a handful of rhinos left, would they ever even consider to send in our army before then? I can only hope, but I really don't think they will...

  • Belinda - 2012-03-03 05:35

    dear mr President, can you help our Rhino's too?

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