Pygmy tribes in Cameroon have been forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and threatened with death if they return to make way for Western elephant hunters, it has been claimed. Members of the Baka tribe, many of whom self-identify as "pygmies", were forced out of tropical rainforests in Cameroon to make way for "protected areas", leased by French billionaire Benjamin de Rothschild.
Westerners pay £55,000 to stay in luxurious camps and shoot elephants in the area, in a project apparently endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). According to Survival International, the protected areas are fenced off and patrolled by armed guards who beat the semi-nomadic Baka and burn down their huts if they enter in search of food or to visit religious sites.
One Baka told Survival: "They told me to carry my father on my back. I started walking, [the guard] beat me, he beat my father. For three hours, every time I cried out they would beat me, until I fainted and fell to the ground with my father." Another added: "When the trophy-hunting company finds us here they burn the camps. They beat us, they search for us, they set their dogs on you, their guns on you."
Neither the WWF or Benjamin de Rothschild had responded to the allegations in Survival at the time of publication. In February 2016 Survival made a formal complaint against the WWF for what it said was involvement in violent abuse and land theft from pygmies in the region, the first time an environmental group had been challenged in this way, according to The Guardian.
Survival Director Stephen Corry said: "Across Africa, rich trophy hunters are welcomed into the same areas where tribal hunters are illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands and brutalised for hunting to feed their families. This has to stop. Conservation in the Congo Basin is land theft, a continuation of colonialism. It leads to widespread and horrific human rights violations, including extrajudicial killing."