Female western lowland gorilla with infant in captivity. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Forest ranger, Zomedel Pierre Achille, was brutally murdered by gorilla poachers near Lobéké National Park in Cameroon, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Achille and another ranger, Jean Fils Mamendji, attempted to take poachers into custody after discovering the bodies of two Western lowland gorillas in the poachers’ camp. The rangers were fired on and both shot, however, Mamendji was able to escape.
A rescue mission found Achille the next day, but he was dead. The poachers had tied his body, naked, to a tree and beat him, perhaps with a rifle.
Father of five, Achille had been a forest ranger in Cameroon for 12 years. This is the first murder of wildlife ranger in Cameroon in recent years. Violent conflicts have increased as the government is working to crack-down on poachers.
“Rangers are putting on a uniform every day to protect their wildlife, their forests and ultimately, the well-being of their communities from individuals who seek only to commit criminal acts such as trafficking protected species,” David Greer, WWF’s African Great Ape Coordinator, said in a press release. “These brave men are going into battle under-equipped and often without proper training. Law enforcement efforts at all levels need to be dramatically scaled up, especially in the typically weak judicial systems.”
Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List with a population that has been cut by over 80 percent in three generations. Gorillas are vanishing due to habitat loss, poaching and the Ebola virus. Gorilla parts are sold as bushmeat, often in hand-size packages of meat.
Authorities are working to track-down Achille’s killers.
“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 behavior will receive swift and severe punishment,” Greer adds. “Anything less would dishonor to the memory of our brave, fallen colleague.”
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