Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Combatting wildlife trade: another day, another success

4 September 2014

Categories: Homepage News, EAGLE News, Primates Campaign News

Working for a wildlife charity has its rewards, and frustrations. We battle against those who would profit from the death of wild animals and trade in their parts, and those who would imprison wildlife for a lifetime. Victories scored along the way keep us going and sometimes these successes are brought home to us in the clearest of ways.

We recently received an urgent email from one of our long term partners, the Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA), which specialises in wildlife law enforcement in Cameroon. The email asked for the urgent transfer of funds so that an enforcement operation could take place as soon as possible, with the intention of putting an ape dealer behind bars.

LAGA had been monitoring his movements for weeks and knew a whole lot about him, even had photos of him, but they also knew their time was running out and that unless they acted fast he would soon disappear without a trace and they would likely never get the chance to put him out of business. LAGA needed resources urgently to make arrangements for the transport of their team and police officers to the operation, conduct the legal follow up if the arrest was made to ensure he didn’t immediately bribe his way back out of jail… in short: no support, no operation.

So as fast as it could, the Born Free team planned and finalized the paperwork, drove to the nearest outlet which could instantaneously transfer the funds, and emailed LAGA with the “go ahead”. Twenty minutes later they confirmed the operation was underway and within hours we received the news that the operation had been successful. The 42 year old trafficker was caught while attempting to sell a gorilla skull, a chimpanzee skull and what is believed to be a mandrill skull in Pouma, located between Douala and Yaounde, the country’s two largest cities.

The dealer’s ‘cover’ had been his parallel occupation as a commercial bike rider and on that day he’d ridden to Sibongo, some 20 km from Pouma, to collect the skulls from an as yet unidentified poacher. He then rode back to Pouma with the skulls strapped to his bike and while attempting to sell them, he was trailed and arrested by the team.  A few days later the accused appeared in court, pleaded not guilty and will now remain behind bars until the next hearing which was adjourned to October 2014.

But it didn’t stop there. Ever frugal in their spending and maximizing what they could squeeze out of every pound, LAGA then assisted in another operation which led to the arrest of another two wildlife dealers in Tombel, north of Douala.

The duo had been attempting to sell a collection of wildlife parts including an elephant tusk, tail and jawbone, a gorilla skull and five other gorilla bones. Some of these had been bought in Tombel itself and investigations are currently ongoing to determine the supplier. The arrested men are professional dealers, using photos of their wares to advertise and build confidence in potential clients. One such photo found in their possession shows six raw elephant tusks, leading investigators to believe the dealers have a hidden stockpile of wildlife products.

Born Free is passionate about LAGA’s approach to the illegal wildlife trade, underpinned by the belief that “when you arrest a poacher, you only slap a hand reaching into the forest”. Instead, LAGA targets the body behind that hand, going after the dealers who really control wildlife trade and who’s neutralizing causes the most disruption to the organised criminal networks that profit from the trade. The battle against the illegal trade in wildlife will never end and however small a part Born Free played in these recent results, it was a critical one, and one which we couldn’t continue to do without you, our vital supporters.

Please support LAGA's amazing work by donating today


Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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