Ofir Drori was one of the winners of the Future For Nature Award 2011. In 2002 he went to Cameroon as an educator, photojournalist and activist, and founded LAGA to fight wildlife crimes. Seven months after its creation, still a small group of local activist volunteers without a donor, LAGA brought about the first ever wildlife prosecution for the whole of West and Central Africa by fighting corruption. Ofir Drori is the author of the book The Last Great Ape, the story of his life and work, and his journey to activism.
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LAGA (Last Great Ape) has transformed the rate of wildlife prosecutions in Cameroon from a decade long baseline of zero to one a week for the last seven years. LAGA’s work with the Government of Cameroon has put more than 450 traffickers behind bars.
After proving that LAGA’s innovative cost-effective model is successful, the vision for the rest of Africa started to materialize. Following several awards and recommendations from the international community to replicate the model in other countries, LAGA started working with other NGOs to transfer the LAGA experience and model throughout the sub-region. The LAGA model is currently operating in six countries where it has brought about key prosecutions and keeps expanding each year.
LAGA’s influence goes beyond conservation. It has been described by seven national ambassadors as “one of Cameroon’s significant anti-corruption success stories” and has inspired similar activities in policing corruption, child trafficking and human rights issues.
LAGA was set up to experiment with methods of fighting corruption within a law enforcement and application process. In 2005 Ofir Drori founded a second NGO, AC-Cameroon, to use the experience of establishing wildlife law enforcement to push for anti-corruption law enforcement and fight corruption within the development and NGO community. AC tries to group ordinary victims of corruption and lead them in attacking corruption in court, with the intention of empowering ordinary citizens to participate in the fight against corruption. It also runs a corruption hotline and promotes a certification scheme and other innovative tools to counter corruption.
“Ofir tackles the ‘bad’ guys; but he does so through legal channels. You can go only so far with soft approaches of awareness. At the end of the day, you have to be willing to stand firm and enforce the regulations. By being visibly anti-corruption, you place yourself in the firing line. Perhaps the real hero of this nomination is the chimpanzee ‘Future’ who turned Ofir’s life around.” – 2011, John MacKinnon, International Selection Committee