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Pangolins: Experts call for stringent penalties against wildlife poaching, trading

Some wildlife experts on Friday, February 19, 2021 expressed concern over the illegal poaching of Pangolins and called for enforcement of laws and stringent measures against those found guilty of trading them.

The Pangolin. Pangolins are believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammals

They spoke at a virtual event organised by the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, to honour the 2021 World Pangolin Day and discuss the importance of ending wildlife trafficking.

Pangolins are unique mammals with large scales covering their skin and are mostly trafficked for their supposed medicinal properties.

According to the experts, wildlife is a vital component of natural heritage and should not be harmed by consumption patterns and the inability to save them.

Charles Emogor, a PhD candidate at Cambridge University, said that of the eight species of Pangolins, three are critically endangered, three others endangered while the remaining two are vulnerable.

Emogor, who is currently studying Nigerian pangolins with a focus on the social impacts and implications of wildlife trafficking, said that if their exploitation continued as usual, they would be extinct in a year or two.

“It is important to realise that everyone can help to reduce and curb pangolin decline.

“Whether you live in communities where there are  pangolins or not, you can play a role by informing your community members about them.

“It is also important that we help provide favourable opportunities for research to continue because those who are interested in pangolin conservation should have a platform to kick off,” he said.

Shruti Suresh, Senior Wildlife Campaigner, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said that, over the years, Nigeria had been identified as a key role player in wildlife trafficking.

“Nigeria has been identified as the largest export and exit hub for Elephant ivory and pangolin scales and often, we see an interception of trucks transporting scales and ivories by the authorities.

“This is a serious issue because it is threatening the future of the last remaining pangolin and elephant populations, not only within Nigeria, but also in the region.

“From EIA investigations and research, we have been able to identify that within this region, there are different countries playing a key role as source countries, transit countries and countries where there is export and consolidation taking place.

“Typically, ivory and pangolin scales are moved from these source countries using a variety of transportation mechanisms, including buses, trucks, speedboats or even canoes,” she said.

Suresh added that it was not only a conservation problem but also an issue of “serious organised and sophisticated crime.”

She said that it was pertinent to be upfront about the role of corruption in wildlife trafficking because the problem would not be solved without addressing foundational causes.

“The staggering quantities of ivory and pangolin scales leaving Nigeria would not happen if it were not for corruption in the form of bribes paid to specific departments at key ports.

“The time for action is now and we need cooperation, not just within Nigeria but across borders with other countries in Africa as well as in Asia.

“We need to make this a political issue such that it gets the attention of the government.

“Only with that happening would see that there are resources given to champions within the government who actually want to address this problem.

“We need to voice our concern and be loud about it so that this issue is treated as a priority,” Suresh said.

Also, Linus Unah, a representative of WildAid West Africa, said it was clear that, without awareness, people would continue to maintain old habits of poaching and trading animals illegally.

According to him, creating behavioural change campaigns around the issue is important in Nigeria.

He said that a lot of urban audiences in major cities were largely unaware about the exploitation of pangolins.

“We have to actively share information about pangolins on social media, tell our friends, families and co-workers about these severely treated animals while also supporting organisations working to protect them.

“If stringent prosecutions and enforcement laws are not put in place, there would be no serious deterrent for people to stop trading and exporting pangolins illegally.

“Until laws are enforced and communicated, the exploitation of pangolins will continue,” he said.

By Busayo Onijala

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