April 20, 2017 after he was found in possession of 2 ivory tusks, a skin and several teeth from a freshly killed leopard. The clergy man travelled from Mvangan to Sangmenlima in the South Region where he attempted to sell the wildlife contraband. It is expected that the suspect who is presently behind bars would be charged on three counts including unlawful possession and commercialization of parts of protected species and the killing of the species – that is the elephant and the leopard.
According to preliminary investigations, the clergy man is suspected to have been trafficking ivory for a long time and a source close to the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity said the catholic priest had been trafficking in ivory for over 5 years and had developed a network of poachers to whom he supplied basically everything they needed for poaching. These items included arms and bullets, clothing and cover. He equally supplied food to the families of poachers who were on poaching expeditions that could run up to weeks.
He was arrested during an operation carried out by the Dja and Lobo Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with the Sangmelima Gendarmerie Territorial Brigade. The Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA) provided technical assistance during the whole process that involved a thorough investigation into the illegal activity of the prelate. After his arrests, the car he used was immediately taken to the delegation’s office where it is stationed and could be impounded. He drove the car from Mvangan with the products hidden inside.
According to the same sources , he supplies raw ivory tusks to other traffickers based in Sangmelima, Douala and Yaounde and uses his religious status to drive pass through check points unperturbed as few check points officials would dare suspect a catholic priest to be carrying ivory contraband. This is a common routine among traffickers who always use a front profession for the cover needed to effectively carry out trafficking. This is not the fast time a man of God has been arrested for wildlife trafficking. A pastor was arrested on December 16, 2015 as he tried to sell 19 chimp skulls in Yaounde. He had travelled from Meyomessala in the South Region to Yaounde and shortly after he arrived, he hired a taxi which took him to a popular neighbourhood in Yaounde to hook up with a client and got himself picked up by wildlife officials.
The illegal trade in ivory has pushed elephants to the bring of extinction in several Afircan countries and ivory has become a coveted commodity by those living in areas that still have populations of elephants. They are shot and killed and their tusks hacked off. The poachers who supply ivory tusks to the priest would cut off the parts with chain saws.
The arrest is described by some who work in the sector as very important because it provides sufficient indication into how deep and complex the illegal ivory trade runs and how wide afield are those involved in it – some coming from very unsuspecting quarters indeed.