Cameroon is making efforts to crack down on elephant poaching and ivory trafficking. Several recent busts have led officials to intensify surveillance at sea and in border areas.
A man who complained to police at their station near the town of Campo on Cameroon’s southern border with Gabon and Equatorial Guinea was arrested alongside 45 other people although he insisted he was just a passenger aboard the ship.
But Georges Mouncharou, Cameroon’s highest wildlife official in the area, said the ship had three containers of ivory on board weighing about 200 kilograms.
The discovery was a bit of luck.
Mouncharou said the ship ran out of fuel Tuesday and had to anchor in Cameroonian waters. The vessel was traveling from Gabon to Nigeria. Cameroonian officials noticed the ship while it was re-fueling and suspecting that it was owned by traffickers, they boarded it for a search. It is the first time Cameroon has found ivory on a sea vessel.
According to officials, the people on board were from Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Gambia and Niger. A dozen have been detained for further investigation.
Kpwang Abessolo Francois, senior Central Africa program officer for the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, said the tusks are believed to have been collected from elephants killed in Cameroon and Gabon.