French banker Benjamin de Rothschild has allegedly led an effort to beat, torture and expel Baka “Pygmies” from their land in Cameroon to make room for his company to operate a safari to hunt elephants.
Indigenous advocacy group Survival International published statements this week from victims of Rothschild’s enterprise, which leased two protected ancestral plots for tourists to hunt the wild animals for US$55,000 and bring back their parts as trophy.
The business also breaks international law by employing soldiers, police and forest guards to threaten the Baka peoples with arms.
“They beat us, they search for us, they set their dogs on you, their guns on you,” said one member of the Baka to Survival International, who added that his fields were burned. The Baka are not allowed to hunt, collect plants or visit religious sites on their own land, now occupied by the tourist camps.
”They told me to carry my father on my back. I started walking, (the guard) beat me, he beat my father,” said another Baka man. “For three hours, every time I cried out they would beat me, until I fainted and fell to the ground with my father."
The Indigenous Cameroonians wonder how they will live and sustain themselves if their lands are occupied by what one of its workers called "luxury forest camps"—fully equipped with “solid construction, air conditioned with private chalets with full bathrooms and dressing parlors,” said a booking operator.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), which says it has a significant presence in Cameroon against trophy-hunting, would not respond to Survival International. Its trustee, Peter Flack, has been known to hunt elephants in the region.