“Operation Punch” delivers knockout blow to illegal bushmeat markets
Yaoundé, Cameroon, 21st October 2009—After months of planning, at 5 am on 16 October, a team of law enforcement officers, including the anti-poaching brigade of the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF), staff from the Direction Générale à la Recherche Extérieure (DGRE) and others, swooped on markets throughout Yaoundé to seize bushmeat illegally on sale.
Code-named “Coup de poing”, (“Operation Punch”), the team confiscated 45 live animals, 228 carcasses plus 42 assorted animal parts following raids at Nkolndongo and Nkolndongo Texaco markets and the railway station.
Three store owners were arrested, and if convicted of illegally selling protected wildlife, face fines ranging from Franc CFA200,000 to 1,000,000 (USD450–2,250) and up to 6 months in prison.
The confiscated animals ranged from parts of gorillas and pythons to monkeys, pangolins, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, antelopes, monitor lizards, hornbills and rodents. The live animals were transferred to Mvog Betsi Zoo, while the confiscated meat was later auctioned off.
In Central Africa, direct and indirect hunting pressure has been identified as a threat to 84 species and subspecies of mammals, the majority of them primates and duikers (small antelopes).
According to Celestine Ndonga of Direction Générale à la Recherche Extérieure (DGRE) the area had been identified as important for illegal trade in wildlife products and had been under surveillance for several months leading up to the operation.
TRAFFIC is helping build the capacity of the Cameroon Government’s wildlife monitoring patrols through a project funded by WWF Poland.
Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, Minister of Forests and Wildlife, said: “We are pleased with our co-operation with partners TRAFFIC Central Africa and (local NGO) LAGA.”
“Although sale of some of these species is not prohibited, this activity must be conducted in compliance with existing regulations to control the trade and ensure state revenues, the welfare of communities and the conservation of biodiversity.”
Henriette Bikie, who manages TRAFFIC’s Bushmeat Programme in Central Africa added: “This seizure demonstrates how the illegal trade in wild animals is one of the greatest threats leading to the disappearance of threatened species in Cameroon and more generally in Central Africa.”
She further stressed: “TRAFFIC is committed to support the government of Cameroon in conserving the nation’s biodiversity, particularly its endangered wildlife such as elephants and great apes through helping to develop long-term solutions to the issues of bushmeat harvesting and illegal trade.”