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Forest ranger killed by gorilla poachers

6 October 2011

A forest ranger has been killed and another seriously injured following a violent clash with gorilla poachers in Cameroon. We utterly condemn the attack, and want to see more protection for our courageous colleagues working on the frontline of conservation - and much stronger deterrents and severe sentences for those involved in this kind of horrific crime.

Western lowland gorilla, bush meat orphan, Cameroon

The attack occurred on September 27, near Lobéké National Park, close to Cameroon’s border with Central African Republic. WWF supports gorilla conservation programmes in the park, providing crucial funds, training and equipment to forest rangers.

“This is the saddest day in the history of conservation in south-east Cameroon,” says Basile Yapo, WWF's director in Cameroon. “It is a clear testimony of the danger we face - and calls for firm action to be taken against poachers.”

As we understand it, the two men were on patrol when they discovered the carcasses of two critically endangered Western lowland gorillas in a forest camp. The rangers confronted the poachers on their return to the scene, and the gang of six or more men opened fire on the unarmed forest guards, both of whom sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

Ranger Jean Fils Mamendji was hit in the arm and shoulder, but managed to escape. Mamendji’s partner, Zomedel Pierre Achille, a 12-year veteran of the patrol, was hit in the chest and back, and Mamendji was forced to leave him behind.

After searching all night, a rescue mission located Achille's body the following day, tied to a tree. There were signs that he had been severely beaten before his death.

Retaliatory attacks by poachers against rangers have intensified in recent months in response to increased law enforcement efforts by the government. Illegal activity has been particularly prevalent in south-east Cameroon, where dedicated WWF teams are working to support the government efforts.

Victims of the violence have not been restricted to forest rangers. Earlier this year a group of six Baka pygmies were shot and wounded by poachers.

“Rangers are putting on a uniform every day to protect their wildlife, their forests and ultimately, the wellbeing of their communities from individuals who seek only to commit criminal acts such as trafficking protected species,” adds David Greer, our African Great Ape Co-ordinator.

“Law enforcement efforts at all levels need to be dramatically scaled up, especially in judicial systems. That is where a criminal deterrent can be established that will not only save Africa's dwindling wildlife, but will also protect its people from lawless violence such as this.

“As this case goes well beyond wildlife crime, we expect that our government partners will take the necessary steps to locate and bring these assailants to justice, while making a firm statement that criminal behaviour will receive swift and severe punishment. Anything less would dishonour the memory of our brave, fallen colleague.”

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