Due to the increasing demand for pangolin meat, which is eaten as a luxury dish in some parts of the world with their scales, and other body parts, which are used in many traditional medicines, the animal has been said to be the most illegally-traded mammal in the world. The Chairperson of the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria (PCGN), Prof. Olajumoke Morenikeji, dropped this hint while speaking at a symposium, organised by PCGN, stressing that the conservation and protection of pangolins in Nigeria is the collective responsibility of all citizens.
She said that poachers had turned to Africa to supply tonnes of pangolins to the Asian market, and if left unchecked, the mammal would go into extinction. “It is the most illegally-traded mammal in the world. This is due to the increasing demand for their meat, which is eaten as a luxury dish in some parts of the world and their scales and other body parts, which are used in many traditional medicines. This high demand is causing unsustainable levels of poaching and illegal trade, driving pangolins to the brink of extinction. Nigeria is both a source and transit country for pangolin parts, primarily scales, which are trafficked to East Asian markets, most notably China”, she stated.
Prof. Morenikeji, who is also the Regional Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Pangolin Specialist Group, West Africa, has called on all Nigerians to collaborate in the quest to tame the illegal pangolin trade in the country while highlighting the works of PCGN in tackling the illegal trade. “We are a group of conservation experts from broad disciplines of Zoology, Animal Science, Veterinary Medicine and other affiliated specialties. We are involved in the conservation of pangolins through scientific research and the creation of awareness on the need for their conservation at local, national and international levels. Additionally, we continually rescue pangolins from trade, rehabilitate and release them to protected forest areas within Nigeria”, she added. Also, the Officer-in-Charge of Nigeria Customs Service’s Special Wildlife Office, Abimbola Animashawun-Isafiade, said that Nigeria seized a total of 1,613 tonnes of pangolin scales meant for illicit trading in 2022. She identified the widespread dearth of knowledge about the mammal as a factor fueling the illegal trade in the country while calling for collaboration among stakeholders in combating illegal wildlife trade. According to her, “there is a need for the coming together of all stakeholders and with a unity of purpose, to support the implementation of Nigeria’s Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime (2022-2026)”.
She also called for capacity building of security operatives, to improve investigative techniques. Commandant Tayo Adaralewa of the Oyo State Command of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said campaigns should be carried to communities across rural areas, to drive some awareness. He called for amendments to the country’s wildlife conservation laws, to better tackle current poaching as well as protect endangered species, saying laws of wildlife conservation should be amended to adequately address the current poaching trends and protect endangered wildlife from being consumed for food. The Director, Southwest Zone, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Elijah Udofia, also called for a united front against pangolin extinction in the country, noting that the lack of several specialist rehabilitation units, to return seized pangolins back into the wild, was a challenge in the conservation of the mammal.