WWF Standards, ESSF to guide support to wildlife law enforcement in Southeast Cameroon
WWF’s support for wildlife law enforcement aims to ensure greater security for elephants, great apes and pangolins that are critically threatened according to IUCN Relist, and procure benefits for indigenous people and local communities. This support is within the framework of the second phase of the project: « Towards zero wildlife crime in Boumba-Bek & Nki National Parks in TRIDOM Cameroon for elephant security and Indigenous People & Local Community benefits”.
The project was launched on September 12 in Bertoua, East Region, involving park managers, representatives of local CSOs, the Judiciary, Customs, the Police, the Cameroon Human Rights Commission and IP and Local Communities.
This project will be implemented through five key strategic interventions: Permanent presence in forest clearings as deterrent to poaching; strengthening effective surveillance and prosecution; improving informed advocacy and government accountability; enhancing community natural resources stewardship and compliance with human rights standards, and increased accountability and transparency in TRIDOM Cameroon.
It outlines WWF’s facilitation role and limits as guided by its Network Standards and Environmental and Social Safety Framework (ESSF) that will mitigate potential risks involved in anti-poaching activities, aimed at curbing wildlife criminality.
WWF will support surveillance and ecological monitoring in Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks (where a permanent presence strategy is helping to ward off poachers from targeting wildlife in the key forest clearings of Pondo and Ikwa) as well as promote economic livelihood activities.
Why the Elephant
For WWF, the forest elephant represents flagship wildlife species (including gorillas and pangolins) in the TRIDOM landscape that face grave threat posed by poaching. “Our part is to strengthen the role of MINFOF personnel and communities in the work they are doing to protect biodiversity and to define the framework for our support. We will work with all stakeholders in the law enforcement chain to ensure appropriate and effective application of the law, respect for human rights and benefits for indigenous people and local communities,” states Alain Bernard Ononino, WWF Congo Basin Wildlife Coordinator.
Besides park managers, civil society organisations and community-based groups will play vital roles in this project. “We will promote the rights of local people and reinforce their capacity in the exploitation and management of natural resources as well as their role in biomonitoring activities. Through the community complaint mechanism, we will denounce cases of abuse of their rights and follow up any such cases till we ensure that justice is done,” states Ankoh Angèle, Coordinator of NGO PERAD that is implementing the Complaint Mechanism in the TRIDOM Cameroon landscape.
NGOs will also take advantage of the MoU between the Baka and Cameroon forestry administration to enable the Baka to exercise their traditional and access right to natural resources, Angele adds.
For Denis Achille SOJA, Coordinator of GIC KODENZOP, a community-based organization that covers 35 villages around the Nki National Park and the Ngoyla Wildlife Reserve, his organization will take charge of sensitizing local community members on their responsibility in stemming illegal activities, while accompanying eco-guards in ecological monitoring and surveillance activities in the park.
“In the first phase of the project, the communities were well integrated in field activities, particularly biomonitoring. We received support from WWF to enable us participate in the process. We hope to play an even greater role in this phase to ensure that our resources are better preserved and that we derive benefits from them,” Achille adds.
Rich but threatened
The TRIDOM landscape is rich in wildlife, with populations of elephants, great apes, pangolins, buffalo, duikers and leopards. Unfortunately, these iconic species continue to disappear at an alarming rate due to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. A wildlife inventory report published by WWF in 2015 revealed more than 80% loss of the elephant population in Cameroon segment of TRIDOM. Factors contributing to this situation include ineffective law enforcement due to low operational capacity of law enforcement agencies, insufficient financial and logistical efforts by the government to combat poaching, and the lack of long-term and sustainable funding for anti-poaching efforts.
The WWF commitment comes at a time that upsurge in poaching is threatening to decimate the remaining surviving elephants in the forest, which could have repercussions on the forest ecosystem and the survival of other species. Communities living around these protected areas are most impacted by wanton killing of elephants considering their gardening role in regenerating vital tree species important for the local people.
WWF will therefore boost the work of park managers and local communities in maintaining a permanent presence system in key clearings in Nki and Boumba-bek NP to deter poaching, strengthen the capacity of eco-guards, law enforcement agencies and judicial officers to detect and prosecute wildlife offences and effectively enforce court decisions. WWF will advocate for appropriate conservation policy actions on the part of government to combat poaching and illegal trade.
“At a time that parks are facing a challenge of dwindling and insufficient funds for anti-poaching, the project will boost the operational capacities of park managers in dealing with the problem of poaching,” states Azangue Georges, Conservator of Boumba Bek National Park.