For elephants in Cameroon's national parks, this year got off to a grim start: More than 500 elephants were killed by poachers in the first two months of 2012. Though law enforcement officers were able to arrest 12 suspected poachers in late March, many expected the sentence to be little more than a slap on the wrist.
Indeed, this expectation was not without precedent. In January, judges in Cameroon let 44 convicted ivory traffickers off with 30 days of jail time each.Fortunately, it seems, judges there have finally begun to grasp the dire situation developing in the country. In the latest case, the court has handed out $160,000 in fines and jail sentences up to 30 months. David Hoyle, Conservation Director for WWF Cameroon, commented that "this verdict will certainly boost the morale of forest rangers who have been hitherto saddened and disappointed by the series of mild court sentences passed by the courts over the years."
The ruling followed heavy lobbying from WWF, the Last Great Ape Organization, and the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife.
Balla Ottou, one of the representatives of Cameroon’s wildlife ministry at the trial, welcomed the decision, commenting "We need such decisions to stop the hemorrhage."