18 May 2022
FIGHTING THE ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
Born Free chats to Ofir Drori, founder of the Last Great Ape Organisation, about their work to fight wildlife crime and end corruption.
Ofir Drori is a remarkable photo-journalist and activist, who founded LAGA in Cameroon to tackle wildlife crime and protect apes and other rare wildlife from poachers. Born Free has supported LAGA since 2004 and the model has been replicated and now operates in nine countries in central and west Africa.
Known as EAGLE – Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement, the dynamic network works for wildlife law enforcement and fights corruption, infiltrating trading gangs to bring dangerous criminals such as ape-meat dealers* to justice. Thanks to EAGLE’s undercover investigations, tip offs to police, legal action and media follow-up, this innovative and award-winning organisation has helped imprison more than 1,000 major wildlife criminals.
What is your goal in your work with LAGA and EAGLE?
Our goal is bringing about effective wildlife law enforcement. Most of the countries in west and central Africa are yet to apply the wildlife law. We are here to change this.
What is it that motivates you to work with wildlife?
I loved animals from the time I was young, but what motivates me more is all of my African experience. My love for wildlife can not be separated from my love to this continent’s people. I spent years in the bush, being with wild animals as I trek through the savannahs. Watching a herd of 300 elephants from a the tent is inspiring and leaves one with a sense of humility and deep respect to nature.
Why do you consider individual animals to be important?
Future, the first baby chimp I rescued has showed me that beyond preserving a species, each individual animal is a world by itself. Being so inquisitive and expressive, it was difficult to ignore the value of his thoughts and feelings.
Watching a herd of 300 elephants from a the tent is inspiring and leaves one with a sense of humility and deep respect to nature.
What recent achievements are you most proud of?
We are now witnessing the replication of the LAGA model of establishing wildlife law enforcement through fighting corruption. It is beautiful to see that new countries like Congo and the Central African Republic get their first ever wildlife prosecutions, and to see the idea spreading. We are now getting more replications in Gabon, Nigeria, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
How has Born Free’s support been important to you?
Born Free is our most loyal donor. It was one of the first to take the risk and bet on us, where all we had was a lot of passions and some new ideas. But Born Free is for us more than a donor, the dedicated Born Free team keep advising us and guiding us on crucial decisions. I recall the first year of LAGA where I was invited to visit the Born Free office. Having fought my battles in Cameroon with much resistance and very little support or recognition I was welcomed by a family that gave me the feeling I was not alone.
Support our Apes on the Edge appeal to help protect our closest cousins… before it’s too late.
*Click here for a gallery of ape meat images but BE WARNED the photos are horrific and distressing.