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Regional News of Saturday, 18 July 2015

Source: Fulton News

Cameroonian tanners target skins of protected animals

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Tanners in Madjema, a village in the Far North region of Cameroon, have swapped tanning cowhides and goat skin for tanning the skins of protected animals.

The move, the tanners claim, was caused by tourists shunning the region due to Boko Haram terrorism.

Officially, the craftsmen in Madjema work on cowhides, sheep and goat skin.

But once they find buyers they trust, the tanners unveil a well-kept secret: the skins of protected animals such as crocodiles, snakes and ostriches.

But these animals are all protected and prohibited from being hunted in Cameroon.

Since 1981, there have been over 153 tanners in Madjema. They are organized into two main business sectors: some roam slaughterhouses to buy fresh skins while the others work onsite at different processing stations.

The villagers lived off tourists who used to come by almost every day and buy souvenirs such as leather sandals, purses, satchels, rugs and paintings.

But since Boko Haram began its terrorist activities in Madjema, which is located near the Nigerian border, the tourists have stopped coming.

“There are no customers anymore because of Boko Haram. Tourists were our main customers and they have fled. In the past, we used to work on about 1,000 cowhides per day. Today we work on 150 per day, sometimes less than 100,” Ousmanou Bouba, the village head, told Anadolu Agency.

As tourists have stopped visiting the area, tanners try to sell their products outside of the village, such as in the craft centers of Maroua.

But nobody buys the goods “despite the lower prices,” Bouba said.

It is clear that this lack of tourism is what pushed locals to enter the illegal skin tanning trade.

According to the tanners, buyers come from neighboring countries, as well as from Yaounde and Douala in Cameroon, to buy to buy crocodile, snake and even ostrich leather.

“Many of these animals come from Waza Park,” a tannery boss told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

Waza Park is a tourist site also located near the border with Nigeria. It houses hundreds of protected animals, such as elephants and crocodiles.

A sheepskin costs between 1,500 Franc CFA (roughly $3) and 2,000 Franc CFA ($4).

A crocodile skin ready for use, however, is sold at a minimum price of 50,000 CFA francs ($90).

“We know that we break the law by killing protected animals, but so what? We must live. Buyers pay money for crocodile skins even before have worked on it,” the tannery boss said.

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