24 February 2022
The newly published annual report from EAGLE makes some impressive reading, not least 160 significant wildlife traffickers and other criminals arrested in nine countries with 87% remaining behind bars.
It all started with a baby chimpanzee in Cameroon 20 years ago. Working as a photojournalist in 2002, Israeli Ofir Drori came upon the scared infant in the hands of poachers, who had likely slaughtered the chimpanzee’s family. When the authorities refused to intervene, Ofir managed to dupe the poachers into handing him over. Suddenly finding himself an adoptive parent to the chimpanzee, Ofir remained in Cameroon, and committed not only to securing this little one’s future, but also that of innumerable others. And to do so, he embarked on a unique journey, supported by Born Free every step of the way.
Today, ‘Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement’ (EAGLE) operates across nine countries in West and Central Africa. EAGLE members aim to generate a strong deterrent against the illegal trade in wildlife, timber and related criminal activities, including corruption, and the teams fight courageously on the frontline to improve the application of national and international environmental legislation. EAGLE team members employ a program of activities to achieve their objectives, including conducting undercover investigations, making arrests, and providing legal support to ensure prosecutions.
Every year, the EAGLE team seeks out criminals, confiscates contraband and rescues live animals who are otherwise destined for a life of suffering. When undercovering all manner of hideous things, including crates full of African grey parrots, leopard skins, live mandrills, baboons and baby chimpanzees, elephant tusks, pangolin scales, even human bones, the EAGLE team fights, confiscates and rescues.
Even with the restrictions and obstacles experienced by many conservation efforts over the last two years because of the pandemic, EAGLE did not falter and their extensive lists of successes in 2021 demonstrates their unwavering resolve and courage in the face of these heavily organised, funded, secretive and dangerous crime networks.
To this day, the members of the EAGLE network aim for a very simple and yet incredibly ambitious target: one arrest and prosecution of a major wildlife trafficker per day. The scale of the problem remains to be vast and terrifying; yet from its beginnings when one baby chimpanzee forged the lifetime resolve of a man, the EAGLE network continues to toe the line, and makes a positive difference for wildlife every single day.
"My deep love for Africa turned me into an activist,” explains Ofir. “My values of respect and peace between people and with nature turned me into a passionate fighter for nature. I believe that defending wildlife from extinction is our moral obligation, and a cause worth dedicating one’s life to.”
Image © LWC