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Task Force Formed To Catch Poachers 

By Carthia Ndingi Elangwe

Illegal exploiters of biodiversity who are repulsively perpetrating the unscrupulous act of timber poaching, fishing and hunting of extinct animal species, especially at border towns of the Southwest Region, will in the months ahead be fighting with a vibrant Task Force. 

This constitution of a Task Force to check unlawful activities, especially by residents of the Cross River State, Nigeria in Ndian and Manyu Divisions, was made evident in an 8th Regional Anti-Poaching Committee meeting that held recently.

It is on the heels of these criminal ventures that some major stakeholders directly linked to the protection and sustainability of flora (plants) and fauna (animals) in the Region, concerted at the Southwest Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF to strategize on curbing the poaching.

Present to effect this decision included, the Secretary General at the Governors Office, the Southwest Attorney General, Regional Delegates, Forces of Law and Order, Divisional Delegates, Conservators, Eco-guards, International Organs, Economic Operators, NGOs, among others.

With these witnesses, Clement Fondikum, Secretary General at the Southwest Governor’s Office who stood in for the Governor, said “ the pressure our wildlife resources are subjected to by the surrounding population in need of bush meat for subsistence, from those who indiscriminately kill wildlife for commercial purposes, from professional poachers in search of trophies such as ivory and more recently pangolin scales, from people who open up farms, illegal timber and Non Timber Forest Products, NTFPs exploitation, has been made evident in a recent Wildlife survey of some National Parks in the Region.”

For these downward trends, the Senior Administrator reminded the Anti-Poaching Committee of Prime Ministerial Order No 82/PM of October 21st, 1999, which mandated them to redefine biodiversity conservation of Cameroon’s very rich wildlife and encouraged optimism. 

He also urged the broad spectrum team to ally with the forces of law and order and the Justice department to spare no effort in investigating and handing down dissuasive judgments to offenders.

Because of these perpetuators, certain resolutions which were taken in the last Anti-Poaching Meeting (7th) were scrutinised as per the implementation rate by the Southwest Regional Delegate for MINFOF, Samuel Ebai Eben.

 Eben indicated that more eco-guards received military training and recycling; that a senior forestry engineer received training on the utilisation of the recently purchased arms by MINFOF; that eco-guards are now equipped with communication tools such as mobile phones, walkie-talkies and satellite; and that MINFOF, in close collaboration with the administration, forces of law and order and the Judiciary have been conducting investigations, arresting and prosecuting poachers.

“Monthly anti-poaching patrols of 15 to 20 days were conducted in the KNP, MCPN, TNP and BMWS during which seizures and arrests were made. Information on poachers’ signs were collected and later analysed. The first arrays of camera traps have been installed in the KNP,” Eben recounted.

However, other actions could not be attained because of some challenges in the field, he said. 

The Senior Forester highlighted constraints consisting; the alarming encroaching rate of wildlife habitat which hampers the elaborate land use plan for the Southwest Region, the fight against organised wildlife trafficking which of late killed 15 elephants in the Region and the insufficiency of funds to explore a wide range of anti-poaching strategies, the inability to provide alternatives to bush meat and difficulties to access parts of parks during the raining seasons.

Despite these shortcomings, participants presumed some prospects as some recommendations were advanced including; developing an appropriate strategy to reduce and mitigate human wildlife conflicts such as managing wildlife migratory corridors and compensation mechanisms to address  the flourishing trans -boundary trade in wildlife resources through checks, finalising patrol strategies and implementing cyber-tracker based patrol monitoring systems.

It should be noted here that the to-be Task Force will be manned by both Cameroon and Nigerian authorities because the two have joint constraints in tracking illegal biodiversity criminals.

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