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‘Delisting Nigeria as illegal pangolin trade hub requires collaboration’

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• Guild marks 2021 World Pangolin Day
Delisting Africa’s most populous nation as the hub for illegal pangolin trade would require multi-stakeholders’ collaboration. It will also take the government at all levels to intensify efforts to track and nip traffickers, conservationists have said.

The conservationists, who spoke at the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria (PCGN) webinar entitled, ‘Towards Sustainable Pangolin Conservation in Nigeria,’ to mark the 2021 World Pangolin Day, said the country had been tagged as the hub of illegal pangolin trade, a source of concern that must be addressed collectively and urgently.

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They argued that the country had to improve on its law enforcement owing to Nigeria’s involvement in many trafficking cases of pangolin scales in the last three years.

“The fact that Nigeria has been labelled as the illegal pangolin trade hub in the global arena is a situation of great concern that requires multi-stakeholders’ collaboration to ensure sustainable conservation and delisting of Nigeria as the hub for this illegal trade,” said Prof. Adeshola Adepoju, Director-General, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN).

Adepoju, who was represented by Prof. Oladapo Akinyemi, said raising the mammal’s conservation profile through driving public awareness and stakeholders’ engagement would enhance the removal of the tag.

Pangolin is the most trafficked mammal globally, owing to the belief that its body parts possess medicinal properties for the treatment of various ailments in Africa and Asia.

This has led to the poaching of pangolins in record numbers, with Nigeria, in the last few years, linked to the largest number of seizures.

“Nigeria has become a destination of choice for shipping wildlife to Asia,” said AJ Jagelski, Head, Environment, Science, Technology, and Health, the United States Embassy, Abuja, during his keynote speech.

“The scale of the slaughter is enormous. So, it is important we come together to make our voices heard,” Jagelski said.

He noted that collaborations would make the voice louder and would make everyone to start talking about pangolin conservation.

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“Pangolin is Africa’s heritage and we need to protect it,” he added.

He said the US Embassy had been working with the Cross River National Park, Yankari Games Reserve, and the Gashaka-Gumti National Park to provide technical and financial assistance for years.

He noted that the US Embassy had started coordinating with the Nigerian Customs and Department of Forestry on the enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Ibrahim Goni, conservator general, National Park Service, commended the role the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria was playing in the conservation of the pangolins.

He reiterated the need for wildlife conservation of both flora and fauna, while pledging his support to conservation of wildlife in the country.

The theme of the webinar, ‘Towards Sustainable Pangolin Conservation in Nigeria,’ implies that despite various efforts made to conserve pangolins, the effort is yet to yield a satisfactory result.

One of the objectives of the programme, according to the organisers, was to create a paradigm shift, opening new frontiers for pangolin conservation in Nigeria and encouraging scientists to take strides in their efforts to conserve the scaly animal.

Taking participants in attendance through a technical session, Cristian Gruppi, from the Centre for Tropical Research Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles, the U.S., gave a presentation on ‘Genoscape: A Genomic Approach for Wildlife Conservation.’

In explaining genoscape, he said individuals within a population have more similar genetic codes with each other than individuals from other populations.

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“The genetic codes across lots of individuals across space – be it a landscape, state, region, or even continent can determine where different populations exist,” he said.

Elisa Panjang, from the Danau Girang–Field Centre, Malaysia, spoke on pangolin research and conservation in Malaysia.

She shared her experiences in animal conservation at the collaborative research and training facility managed by Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University.

Present at the event webinar were Joseph Onoja, Director – Technical Programmes, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF); Linus Unah, West African representative of WildAid and Felix Abayomi of the Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative (WACI), who also spoke on their organisation’s efforts at stemming the tide of pangolin trafficking in Nigeria.

Prof. Olajumoke Morenikeji, chairperson of PCGN, stated that the organisation had recorded successes in the past and the group hopes to do more for pangolin conservation.

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