The 8th annual World Pangolin Day shall be celebrated throughout the country on February 16, 2019. Activities to mark this day shall include sensitization to draw public awareness to the plight of the pangolins that is facing existential threats.
According statistics from wildlife law enforcement body LAGA, the organization has assisted wildlife officials in the seizure of 7.5 tons of pangolin scales during the past five years. 55 people were arrested during operations leading to the seizures. While some are facing trial at the moment, the majority have received varying prison sentences and fines.
Last year, an international network comprising four countries; Nigeria, Cameroon, CAR and DRC, was dismantled in Douala with over 700kg of scales seized and six traffickers arrested. In January 2017, an illegal shipment of 5 tons of pangolin scales that was on the verge of being exported was seized from a two Chinese nationals who were arrested, tried and sent to prison.
Faced with increasing illegal trade, pangolin enthusiasts, conservationists and the entire world shall next Saturday celebrate the World Pangolin Day. 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. According to Francis Nchembi Tarla, a wildlife specialist and coordinator of a bushmeat network called CABAG: “three years after the CITES meeting in Johannesburg, there are still large seizures in Asia of African scales”. After the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting that held in Johannesburg in 2016 and upgraded the animal to a class of totally protected species, the government of Cameroon followed suit immediately and reclassified all three species of pangolins in the country to totally protected status. But the butchering is ongoing and Tarla agreed: “In most local restaurants, pangolin meat is openly offered on the menu. At road points on the major highways, live pangolins are openly sold”.
In recent years, governments, institutions and organisations have been frantically initiating measures and structures for pangolin conservation following the realization that not much had been done to save the species. On the occasion of the World Pangolin Day and to face the ever-growing conservation challenges, pangolin lovers and conservationists shall be meeting, under the auspices of TRAFFIC – a global wildlife trade monitoring network, to create a pangolin working group that shall specifically target measures aimed at the protecting the animal in the country. This is just one of the ways experts in the sector are trying to come to terms with the problem and Tarla declared: “Our task is still immense and we need to build a lot more capacity and triple our sensitization campaigns to reduce demand”.
Apart from the tracking and arrest of pangolin scales traffickers, The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife in February 2017, burnt over three tons of pangolin scales that were seized during wildlife law enforcement operations in recent years. It was the first time pangolin scales were publicly destroyed in Africa and is part of government’s strategy to intensify the fight against pangolin scales trafficking by sending a strong message of zero tolerance.
Pangolins are considered to be the most trafficked mammals in the world and the growing demand for the scales in China and other Asian countries have seen prices sharply increase posing serious threats to the animal whose populations are rapidly declining in range states across Africa and Asia. They are not only poached for their meat but equally for their scales.