AFRIQUE :: World Pangolin Day preparations gather steam :: AFRICA
The 7th annual World Pangolin Day shall be celebrated throughout the country on February 17, 2018. The celebrations are expected to include sensitization activities to draw public awareness to the plight of the pangolins that is said to be facing serious survival challenges.
According to statistics for the last two years from the wildlife law enforcement support body LAGA (EAGLE Cameroon), over 7000kg of pangolins scales have been seized during crackdown operations carried out by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife within the framework of its wildlife law enforcement programme started in 2003 with the support of LAGA. These figures represent seizures carried out under the framework of the collaboration alone, while the ministry has equally been seizing pangolin scales all through.
The alarming and sudden spikes in the illegal trade in pangolin scales is unsettling many conservationists who fully understand the devastation this is causing pangolin populations while the world looks on. These peaceful animals which are totally protected in Cameroon are silently been killed to extinction. It is in the light of the above statistics, challenges and the forthcoming World Pangolin Day that some conservation organisations and the US Embassy recently met at the offices of TRAFFIC to map out activities to address public awareness and sensitization needs for the Day.
According to Francis Nchembi Tarla, Head of a mentorship progrmme that has been training pangolin champions the pulling of resources was necessary and he declared: “we decided to come together to highlight the plight of the pangolins and raise public awareness on issues related to pangolin conservation”. A number of sensitization activities including radio talk shows, TV slots, pamphlets distribution and social media campaigns have earmarked as part of activities that shall culminate on February 17, 2018.
It is expected that these activities would inform Cameroonians about the threats the pangolins face. The animal has too often been ignored and perceptions about it is not very flattering compared to iconic species such as the elephants, lions, leopards, hippos and more. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, as well the two major threats undermining the survival of the species. These include the trafficking in pangolin scales and the illegal commercialization of pangolin meat. Pangolins are basically known for their meat and the scales which is fast becoming a huge commodity for traffickers around the world and in Cameroon. The Central African sub-region has become a big supply base for traffickers who smuggle scales to Asia.
Wildlife law enforcement operations to curb the trend have increased over a short period. The quantities seized during such operations are equally impressive. Last year in January over 5 tons were seized from two Chinese nationals who were just about to illegally export the haul from Douala. About three weeks ago, three were arrested in Ambam with 80kg of mostly giant pangolin scales which is really a feat because putting together 80kg of the rarest of the three pangolins is very difficult.
Among the four pangolins species that exist in Africa, three are based in the country and include the giant pangolin, which is the most threatened with extinction, the black-bellied pangolin and the white-bellied pangolin. All three pangolins have the same defensive mechanisms which provide very little or basically no protection against poachers. When threatened the animal that has its head, body and tail covered with horny and overlapping scales, curls up into a ball, relying on its scales for protection, making it easy pick for poachers. This explains why captured animals on display are live because you don’t need to kill it to take it home. This is working negatively against the species that needs huge human efforts to prevent its demise. This starts with recognizing the Day and using it to create public awareness.