The illegal wildlife trade, one of the world’s most lucrative illicit businesses, continues to drive the demand for body parts of African wildlife such as elephant tusks, pangolin scales, and bushmeat.
In recent years, Central African countries, and particularly Cameroon, have been identified as important centres for this trade. ZSL takes a holistic landscape conservation approach to combating the illegal wildlife trade, including in pangolins, the world’s most trafficked wild mammal.
Pangolins are increasingly at the centre of this trade. Cameroon is home to three of the four African pangolin species, the black-bellied pangolin, the white-bellied pangolin and the giant pangolin – much of ZSL's work focuses on their protection throughout our key landscapes. ZSL is working with the Cameroonian Ministry of Forest and Wildlife (MINFOF) and other partners to protect the Dja conservation complex in South East Cameroon.
We have been instrumental in protection activities through regular and strategic camera trapping exercises to increase understanding of pangolin ecology; using SMART to inform anti-poaching patrols within and around the Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR) to ensure effective patrolling and arrests; and training in investigation and monitoring of legal procedures to ensure successful prosecution of wildlife traffickers.
ZSL is currently following up a pangolin scales seizure in the High Court of Abong-Mbang, in the East Region of Cameroon, that involves three women and two men. They were caught in possession of over 27kg of pangolin scales, waiting for their potential buyer. This case will be heard in March 2019 and we are supporting the authorities in Cameroon to see that justice takes its course.
ZSL is also engaging with key private sector operators to ensure sustainable management of wildlife in logging concessions and commercial plantations. We also work with local communities to create Village Savings and Loans Associations which is a way of introducing ideas about conservation and sustainable use of natural resources while bringing benefits such increased income and well-being to some of the poorest people in Cameroon.
ZSL hopes through more eco-guard training in evidence gathering, anti-poaching patrol techniques and formal meetings with Judicial authorities (such as magistrates, the Gendarmerie and the Police) wildlife law enforcement will be improved upon and large-scale commercial poaching and trafficking in other illegal items fuelling the black market will be greatly reduced.
In the words of Thomas Ngampou, an eco-guard in the Dja Biosphere Reserve, "Through law-enforcement training I have learned a lot about how to uphold wildlife laws, including basic police techniques. All the training has helped me to protect the Dja in a more efficient manner. My hope is we’ll start getting tourists here to visit the wildlife of the Dja and its significance will be known by the entire world. I love my job, conservation is a noble profession. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing you are working to save the world."
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