A successful operation carried out by the Moungo Divisional Delegation of Forestry has resulted in the arrest of three alleged traffickers in totally protected wildlife species in Loum in the West Region. The suspects were arrested on July 24, 2019, trying to sell four leopard skins. A motorbike they used for transporting the skins was seized alongside the four skins.
They had arrived in torrential rains on board the motorbike shortly before wildlife officials working in collaboration with the gendarmerie followed suite and arrested all three as they went about making a business deal. One of them made an attempt to escape when he saw law enforcement officers approaching but was blocked immediately and all three arrested and taken to the Loum Gendarmerie Brigade where they were identified.
The alleged traffickers who are aged 35 and 39 years old, and a third who is a bit older and aged 45 years old, were taken to Nkongsamba and later to Mbanga by wildlife officials who have initiated legal proceedings for their prosecution. The operation was carried out with the technical assistance of a wildlife law enforcement support body called LAGA.
Over the years several arrests have been carried out in the West Region targeting leopard skin traffickers and some arrests have equally been carried out in the other regions of the country; home to leopards and where the animal is killed for her skin. In this regard, operations led by wildlife officials have in the past been carried out in the East, South and Centre regions with the arrest of several leopard skin traffickers.
Leopards are among the species totally protected by the wildlife law of 1994 which provides for a prison term of up to 3 years and or payment of a fine of up to 10 million CFA francs for anyone caught with a part of a protected wildlife species. The highly elusive feline species is very adaptable and eats a wide variety of diet which enables her to live in wide-ranging habitats including arid regions of North Africa, deserts and semi-desert regions of southern Africa, savanna grasslands of East and southern Africa, mountainous environments on Mt. Kenya, and the rainforests of West and Central Africa.
Leopards are hunted for their soft fur used as decorative pieces, for the making of coats and ceremonial robes. This practice is very common around the world and in some traditional African courts and royal palaces. Leopard tails, claws and whiskers are used as fetishes The destruction of this beautiful species is not only reducing its numbers among the range states but hampering biodiversity while depriving the environment of one of its natural beauties. A small group of people called wildlife traffickers are making a profit. A handful of people are exploiting wildlife resources in a manner that is impoverishing all countries forevermore and in a way that is truly irreversible.