Born Free USA Global Field Projects
In August 2010, the Last Great Ape Organization found itself in the worst cash-flow crisis it had experienced for years. It appealed to Born Free USA for financial support to save it from a total standstill.
LAGA operates with clear, measurable wildlife law enforcement objectives that need to be achieved on a monthly cycle, and a month with no arrests is a disaster that should be avoided.
Born Free USA rose to the occasion, sending funds to Cameroon via a speedy transfer. The assistance helped LAGA arrest four wildlife dealers in one day.
On Aug. 27, 2010, sting operations in Limbe, in the Southwest region, and Sangmelima, in the South region, were carried out simultaneously. They resulted in the arrest of four suspected wildlife dealers, including a woman and an accomplice in Sangmelima.
In Limbe, two alleged dealers who had 12 turtle shells in their possession were arrested. The men are tour guides in the Bakingili area, taking people to view the lava from Mount Cameroon while at the same time allegedly carrying out illegal wildlife trade. Two of the shells were displayed in an artifacts shop, where one of the arresting officers showed interest in buying them. Upon agreeing on a price — $20 for the small shell and $40 for the larger one — one of the suspects called his partner to bring more shells that they had hidden a few meters away in the bush.
When the partner arrived, the arresting agent called in his team: two officials of the ministry in charge of wildlife, one LAGA representative from its legal department, and two other law-enforcement officials. After the arrest was explained, the suspects were taken to the ministry office in Limbe for more questioning. The two called the mayor to intervene on their behalf. Upon seeing the turtle shells and hearing why the arrests had been made, the mayor declared he had “no hand” in the matter and that the men should be punished according to the provisions of the law.
In Sangmelima, the alleged dealer and her accomplice were arrested after it was determined they possessed a fresh, large leopard skin. A LAGA agent, who met the female suspect in front of a bar, told her to wait while he went to get money to buy the skin. As she waited, she hid the bag containing the skin behind a telephone booth. She was being observed by an undercover agent. When he asked to buy her a drink, she agreed and took the bag into the bar, where she was met by two officials of the ministry in charge of wildlife, one LAGA representative from its legal department and two law-enforcement officials. The ministry officials told her to open the bag, and when the leopard skin was revealed, she was told that she was under arrest and was taken to the ministry office to be formally charged. While there, she identified her accomplice. He subsequently was found and arrested.
These operations came at a time when LAGA had very limited financial resources, but despite that difficulty, the organization managed to continue carrying out its mission — thanks in large part to help from Born Free USA.