A 28-year-old man has been arrested in Mbandjock in the Upper Sanaga Division in Cameroon for trafficking in lion skins. Mebana Tena Paul was caught red handed by wildlife and police officials when he tried to sell the lion skin.
The operation was carried out with the technical assistance of The Last Great Ape Organisation – LAGA, an anti-poaching NGO provided technical assistance for the operation..
This is the latest arrests as government officials try to stop the massive poaching of endangered animals like lions, giraffes and gorillas in Cameroon..
After his arrest, Mr Mebana told police be obtained the lion skin in 2012 but refused to tell them how he managed to get it. Police suspect the lion must have been killed in the northern part of Cameroon where some lions still exist despite the increase in poaching in the region.
Mr Mebana could face up to three years in prison if convicted according to Cameroon’s strict wildlife laws.
Pricelia Tumenta, Dschang University lecturer and a wildlife and conservation biologist who has spent a lot of time researching on lions in Cameroon said “My reaction is that of relief and satisfaction for the efforts put in place by MINFOF [Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife] in collaboration with the forces of law and order. During research on lions in Waza National Park, there were speculations and rumours of young lions and lion parts being traded to neighbouring countries for various uses. However, there was no evidence as strong as this case at hand. This might be the beginning of an end to the trade in lions and lion parts.”
Some estimates show that the lion population has dropped by ninety percent while lions have been hunted out of existence in twenty six African countries.
In Cameroon, lions are class “A” animals and are therefore totally protected wildlife species. Experts say there are only a few dozen lions left in the country.
From the lion skin that was seized, experts estimate the lion that was killed to obtain the skin was a young male in it’s prime. It had a short mane. The skin had a length of over 3 metres, measuring over 2 metres in width.
The lion population in Cameroon has dwindled to less than two dozens from more than 10.000 less than a decade ago
Lion skins are highly valued by trophy hunters across Africa. They are usually smuggled to America, Europe and Asian markets where they are used for decorations.
Reports indicate Nigeria is the centre of trophy smuggling of protected animal species in Africa.
Lion skin is also used in the preparation of Chinese traditional medicine.
The Mbandjock operation comes a couple of days after two leopard skin traffickers were arrested in cameroon’s capital city Yaounde.