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Why Pangolin trading is thriving in Nigeria

By Gbenga Akinfenwa 
10 March 2023   |   3:10 am
The widespread dearth of knowledge about pangolin in Nigeria has been identified as one of the major factors fuelling its illegal trade in the country.

African Pangolins

• 1,613 tonnes of pangolin scales seized in 2022

The widespread dearth of knowledge about pangolin in Nigeria has been identified as one of the major factors fuelling its illegal trade in the country.

The Officer-in-Charge of Nigeria Customs Service Special Wildlife Office, Abimbola Animashawun-Isafiade, who called for collaboration among stakeholders in combating illegal wildlife trade, emphasised the need for industry players to come together with unity of purpose to support the implementation of Nigeria’s Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime (2022-2026).

Animashawun-Isafiade who stated this at the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria symposium to mark the 2023 World Pangolin Day in Ibadan, Oyo State, said a total of 1,613 tonnes of pangolin scales meant for illicit trading in 2022.

She said Nigeria made four seizures from illegal wildlife trade last year, with only three having pangolin scales, while adding that 14 persons – both Nigerians and foreigners were arrested in connection with the crime.

Animashawun-Isafiade called for capacity building of security operatives to improve investigative techniques to nip the illegal practice in the bud.

The Chair of the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria (PCGN), Prof. Olajumoke Morenikeji, said the conservation and protection of pangolins is the collective responsibility of all citizens.

Morenikeji who is also the regional chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) SSC Pangolin Specialist Group – West Africa regretted that poachers have turned to Africa to supply tonnes of pangolins to the Asian market, noting that if left unchecked, the mammal will go into extinction.

She said: “It is the most illegally traded mammal in the world. This is due to the increasing demand for their meat – 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 and primarily scales, which are trafficked to East Asian markets, most notably China,” she stated.

She called on all Nigerians to collaborate in the quest to tame the illegal trade, while highlighting the works of PCGN in tackling the menace.

Prof Morenikeji said: “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 of 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.”

On his part, the Commandant, Oyo State Command of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Adaralewa Michael Tayo, said campaigns should be taken to rural areas to drive awareness.

He called for amendments to the country’s wildlife conservation laws to tackle current poaching, as well as protection of endangered species.

The Director of Southwest zone, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Elijah Udofia, 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 is a challenge in the conservation of the mammal.