The aim of PALF (Projet d'Appui à l'Application de la Loi sur la Faune Sauvage) is the legal protection of endangered species of the Congo Republic by reinforcing the application of the law on wildlife protection and by discouraging potential hunters and wildlife traffickers. The main species targeted are gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, leopards, parrots, mandrills and others.
The most immediate threat to protected species in the Congo Republic is illegal hunting for bushmeat and animal parts and the capture of young great apes. These activities are illegal, but the lax enforcement of the law has allowed the establishment of commercial trafficking and the massacre of these species.
PALF was established as collaboration between the Aspinall Foundation and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), with the contribution of expertise from LAGA (Last Great Ape Organization). LAGA is an NGO that has been working in Cameroon for more than 6 years with very promising results which merit replication through all of Central Africa. These NGOs work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry (MEF) and other government bodies (police, judiciary etc.) with the aim of enforcing the law on wildlife protection in the Congo Republic.
The objectives of PALF are as follows:
- exposing all traffickers of ape meat, live apes, ivory and other illicit animal products, and collecting solid evidence for action against them,
- arresting the people involved in this illegal activity,
- guaranteeing that legal action will be taken, and assuring that all verdicts will be enforced,
- raising awareness in the population through media coverage concerning the application of the law on wildlife protection and the risks and penalties applied.
To attain these objectives, PALF has received financial support from USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service), which has made possible the recruitment of investigators, two lawyers and a journalist - a team which will need to be built up gradually.
The results obtained in Brazzaville after little more than 6 months have been very positive. Nine traffickers of animal products have been arrested (three cases involving ivory, four involving leopard pelts, one involving a mandrill pelt, one involving a gorilla and one involving a chimpanzee). Despite corruption and blackmailing attempts, one trafficker of chimpanzee products has been brought to trial in the Congo. The defendant was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 1,100,000 CFA (1,679 Euro). Between September 2008 and March 2009, more than 80 articles were published or broadcast in the Congolese media (press, television and radio), with the result that the Congolese population (particularly in Brazzaville) is now well informed about the dangers and consequences of trafficking animal products.
Law enforcement is a priority both in situ within the protected areas and in regard to the trafficking of animal products between the wild animals' habitats and the urban areas. We hope that different sponsors, NGOs and government organisations, will all get involved in similar projects to apply the experience from PALF. In this way, the PALF slogan "zero tolerance for crimes against wildlife" will become a reality in Central Africa.
In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci: "The day will come when the killing of an animal will be punished in the same manner as the killing of a human."