By Tabora Bojang
Two Chinese nationals were recently caught and briefly detained by residents for illegal hunting using firearms in the Brufut bird sanctuary.
The suspects were intercepted by officials of the West Africa Birds Study Association (Wabsa) which jointly manages the park with the Brufut Village Development Committee (VDC).
According to residents, the suspects were allegedly seen aiming their guns at birds and reptiles in the protected woodland area without permission and carrying firearms with intention to kill wildlife.
They were subsequently taken to Alkalo MaLamin Manneh of Brufut who confiscated their hunting arms and licences with a promise to further investigate the matter as well as liaise with the relevant authorities.
However, the director of Wabsa, Lamin Jobarteh, reported that they have learnt with dismay that the alkalo has returned the seized items to the suspects without consultation with the overseers of the park.
He said even though the suspects claimed to have acquired a license, their “illegal intrusion” in the Brufut woodland as a protected community forest contravenes the forestry laws.
“Unfortunately, the alkalo has returned the firearms to the Chinese Sunday morning. According to our community forest ranger, the Chinese went to the alkalo with one man believed to be a police officer who pleaded on their behalf for and the alkalo without consultation with the VDC subcommittee on environment decided to release them” Jobarteh stated in a write-up shared with The Standard.
“This was an opportunity to set a good example on them or give them a strong warning to desist from hunting in unauthorised areas as well as adhere to the conditions of their permits.
“Wildlife crimes are becoming rampant in the country, therefore our community rangers and leaders who are enforcing our laws must be trained or have
knowledge and understanding on the procedures to follow in similar cases,” Jobarteh explained.
VDC chairman Pa Lamin Fatty said they were not consulted before the release of the apprehended Chinese. “We only read about it on the WhatsApp chat forum,” he said.
When contacted for comment, Alkalo Manneh said the matter was “amicably resolved” at the Alternative Dispute Resolution and that he had no further comment to make on the matter.
Parks and Wildlife director, Momodou Lamin Kassama, said the matter had not reached his office but underscored that hunting in protected areas of the country is prohibited.
The third secretary at the Chinese Embassy in The Gambia, Li-Changhai, said the embassy was not aware of the matter.
Secretary Changhai however maintained that the Embassy had unequivocally communicated to all Chinese resident in The Gambia to abide by the laws of the land and also engage in protecting the environment at all times.