Cameroon destroys illegal ivory as poaching crisis continues
The surprise decision comes after years of campaigning by WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, for better management of the country’s ivory stocks.
Last year, the two organizations helped the government to retrieve 354 confiscated tusks and ivory objects weighing over 1.2 tonnes from court premises and wildlife services across the country. They were part of the pile that today went up in smoke.
“Destroying this illegal ivory sends a clear signal to poachers and traffickers that Cameroon is increasingly serious about cracking down on the illegal ivory trade,” said Dr. Hanson Njiforti, WWF Cameroon National Director. “But this important symbolic act needs to be followed up swiftly by concrete efforts to catch wildlife criminals and ensure they are prosecuted.”
However, WWF is concerned about whether or not an independent audit of the stockpile was conducted before it was destroyed.
“WWF believes that a comprehensive audit should precede every destruction event to ensure that none of the ivory can leak back into the illegal trade,” said Njiforti. “Transparency is a critical part of effective ivory stockpile management and we hope this was the case.”
Like most countries in the Congo Basin, Cameroon is struggling to contain the current surge in poaching. Based on ivory seizures, at least 150 elephants have been killed every year in Cameroon since 2012, but that is a conservative estimate. The country is also a key transit route for ivory from central to West Africa – and then onto Asia.
“Reducing demand for ivory in Asia is key to ending the slaughter of elephants in Central Africa’s forests, but we do not know what impact these destruction events have on demand,” said Elisabeth McLellan, WWF Head, Wildlife Crime Initiative. “We urgently need to study the effect they have on ivory prices and consumer behaviour, especially as more and more countries are opting to destroy their ivory.”
Cameroon has now joined the growing list of African elephant range countries to have publicly destroyed illegal ivory, including Chad, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique.
In less than a fortnight, Kenya will burn over 100 tonnes of ivory – by far the largest ivory destruction in history