Boubanjida National Park under the microscope: are village guards a solution to the chaos?

One of at least 200 elephants slaughtered for their tusks during a 2012 killing spree in Boubanjida.Remember Boubanjida. Hundreds of elephants lying motionless on the ground, heads wide open, their tusks and trunks ripped off. They had always been the heartbeat, the strength, the lifeblood of this national park, a jewel of North Cameroon.

But in the course of weeks two and a half years ago, they became innocent victims of a war with no truce…the cruel war for ivory. This massacre erupted on the international scene. And Cameroon got the reputation of having heavily armed foreign poachers within its borders. 

Start from the beginning: Read IFAW’s onsite account of the February 2012 Boubanjida tragedy.

The poaching of more than half of the entire elephant population in Boubanjida in less than three months marked a turning point. There is undeniably a Before Boubanjida, characterised by the complicit inertia of political decision makers faced with the announced chronic of an environmental, social and security disaster. And then there’s an After Boubanjida, marked by a recognition by the United Nations of the existence of an altogether different type of crime linked to wildlife and the seriousness of its implications.

But After Boubanjida has also been marked by the succession of costly emergency regional meetings and international summits analysing the damage and identifying the same measures to be implemented.

The intention declarations were made against this devastating form of crime and signed with enthusiasm by several countries, all recognizing the transnational character of this crime and the need for cooperation. Cameroon was strengthened by the nomination of its President as the spokesperson for the fight against poaching in central Africa over the last two years. He was a signatory and was keen to strengthen security in Boubanjida in order to protect the remaining elephants.

However, by putting Boubanjida under the microscope, we see that political enthusiasm on an international level deteriorates when it comes to a domestic level. To date, not a single member of the government of Cameroon, once so ready to participate in worldwide summits, has seen it fit to go to Boubanjida to see the scale of the massacre or simply to be a moral support to those that are still suffering from the remnants of this tragedy due to the dwindling local tourist economy.

What about the correlated increase in poverty amongst the local populations of the park? The state has not made it a priority. What about the complaints coming from these terrorised villagers, victims of ecogardes who we fear have sometimes substituted their mission of protecting the park with that of the lucrative business of racketeering. Yet, amongst this chaos, some men are distinguishing themselves by their courage and their determination to give a future back to Boubanjida and to the last elephants that inhabit it: the village guards.

To support the fight against poaching in Boubanjida, in 2012, IFAW started a partnership with the local association Mayo Rey Conservation to strengthen the operational capacities of park authorities. Indeed, after more than a year following IFAW’s practical training last March, the results are highly promising: These village guards have proven that when well led, better trained and encouraged in their efforts, they can show measurable outcomes.

Recently, during a period of 18 days of patrol no less than 13 poachers, 16 miners and two shepherds were arrested, while two guns and 48 traps were seized. Moreover, the village guards received the first delivery of the equipment from IFAW, financed thanks to the generosity of our donors. Upon receiving these tent canvases, mosquito nets, ponchos, torches, flasks, binoculars, among other items, joy and smiles lit up their faces. Supplies of shoes will be distributed after the rainy season.

“So much more than simply support in terms of equipment, for these men, it is a sign of interest in their work conditions and their lives,’’ reports our expert on the ground. 

While supporting village guards is not a priority from the government, your support is precious and vital to keep the flame burning inside each one of these courageous and devoted men.


Help IFAW end elephant poaching: Visit our campaign page.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy