For the first time ever, the 14th international wildlife conference was held in Africa. The theme of the conference, which took place on 6th and 7th December 2012 in Buea, Cameroon, was “Conserving Africa’s wildlife fauna and flora: the role of international agreements,” Over 300 participants attended to listen to 17 presentations from wildlife experts from all over the world and participate in debates and discussions.
One of the presenters, Fidelis Orock Tanyi talked about the protection of Ejagham Forest Reserve in the Southwest Region. He decried the fact that protected areas in Cameroon were created in the 1930s and 1940s without due regard to the future livelihoods of communities living in and around them. Mr. Orock said that laws defining the creation of protected areas in Cameroon were conceived with the aim of conserving ecological resources as well as improving the livelihoods of individual communities in the country. He however saw a deficit in the way that these laws were applied. Quoting the example of the January 1994 Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Management laws, he said that not enough was being done to involve local inhabitants in managing the forest resources. He therefore urged for a shift in policies and the provision of alternative livelihood strategies, so as to reduce over reliance on forest products such as demand for bush meat.
In another presentation, the head of the legal department for the NGO, Last Great Ape conservation, LAGA, Alain Bernard Ononino spoke of the threat posed by illegal hunting and illegal trade in wildlife species. He blamed the continuing illegal trade in wildlife species on the wrong approaches employed by wildlife officers, whose focus was more on seizures and auction of seized meat, without arresting and prosecuting dealers. As a result, there was no effective deterrent. The legal expert used the occasion to call on stakeholders to strengthen efforts in clamping down on poachers and wildlife traffickers.
The conference concluded on a high note as 4 law students from the University of Buea participated and won the moot court competition. The winners will go to the Stetson Law University College in the United States of America for the final competition. One of the winners, 21-year-old Marion Akaseh who could hardly hide her joy said, “This is a very unique opportunity for me as it would permit me acquire negotiation skills and help me defend Cameroon’s interest in future international conventions.”