August 21, 2019
Central Africa and Cameroon in particular are known around the world for
their dense and rich forests, as well as for their iconic fauna, but the
impact of poaching and illegal wildlife trade on these ecosystems is poorly
known. Forest elephant populations have declined by more than 70% in
Cameroon due to poaching between 2010 and 2015 (WWF survey report, 2017), a
statistic that illustrates the challenges facing forests, their wildlife
and many local and indigenous communities that depend on it.
Social imbalances, which were already an issue due to the historical
marginalization of many indigenous communities, continue to worsen as
poachers lure vulnerable people into poaching, sometimes providing them
with weapons and heavy ammunition.
As economic, social, security and environmental impacts begin to emerge,
local communities are beginning to take on poaching. Among them is a group
of joint initiatives for conservation and development around the Nki
National Park and its peripheral areas, called GIC CODENZOP.
Made up of representatives from local and indigenous communities, the group
recently convened a meeting to discuss support and solutions for wildlife
crime with local government officials, traditional chiefs, mayors and
conservators of the National Park. Nki and Ngoyla Faunal Reserve, as well
as law enforcement forces, in Abong Mbang City in the Eastern Region.
“We are appalled by the extent of poaching and its impact on the
environment and surrounding communities,” said Sodja Denis Achille,
coordinator of GIC CODENZOP. We seek the support and commitment of the
conservatives, judicial authorities, sub-prefects, mayors, gendarmerie
brigade chiefs, traditional chiefs and representatives of the Baka
indigenous people. This will allow us to denounce and associate ourselves
with the legal proceedings against those involved in poaching in order to
obtain compensation for poaching,? adds Sodja.
Local authorities have also responded. We need to advocate for the courts
to effectively award civil damages to local communities that suffer
collateral damage from poaching because of their proximity to wildlife
resources,” said Mewol Marcel, Deputy Mayor of Ngoyla Commune.
GIC CODENZOP is one of the four community groups of the Dja-Odzala-Minkebe
cross-border landscape (TRIDOM) that WWF supports as part of a project
entitled “Protection of elephants and great apes in TRIDOM: support to
local communities and Wildlife Enforcement Agencies to Fight Wildlife
Crime”. The other three are the Baka Association of the Boumba and Ngoko
Department (ASBABUK) and two wildlife resource development committees,
known by its acronym COVAREF.
The three-year project aims to increase the participation of local
communities in Cameroon’s TRIDOM landscape segment in efforts to combat
wildlife crime. This is done through legal support allowing communities to
appear as civil parties in wildlife protection cases before the competent
courts and to claim damages for the damage suffered as a result of poaching.
The communities involved in the project have therefore benefited from legal
advice to help them in the process.
?The interest shown by communities in defending their forest against
poaching is encouraging. With appropriate support, we will see more
communities bordering protected areas of the TRIDOM landscape advocate for
efforts to combat wildlife crime that rapidly decimate the forests and
biodiversity they – and all of us – depend on,? said Alain Ononino, Chief
of Wildlife Crime Policy, WWF Central Africa.