Delisting Africa’s most populous nation as the hotspot for illegal pangolin trade would require multi-stakeholders’ collaboration with government at all levels intensifying their efforts to crack-down traffickers, conservationists say.
The conservationists who spoke at the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria (PCGN) webinar themed ‘‘Towards Sustainable Pangolin Conservation in Nigeria’ to mark the 2021 World Pangolin Day say that the country label as the hub of illegal pangolin trade is of great concern that must be addressed collectively and urgently.
They noted that the country has to improve on its law enforcement owing to Nigeria’s involvement in many trafficking incidences 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 will contribute to seeing to it that the tag of Nigeria as the hub for pangolin trafficking is removed.
He commended the efforts of PCGN particularly for the consistent celebration of world pangolin day for the past five years and raising awareness about the mammal in the country.
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 the 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, 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 make the voice louder and will make everyone start talking about pangolin conservation.
“Pangolin is Africa’s heritage and we need to protect it,” he added.
He says the US embassy has 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 has 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 is playing in the conservation of the pangolins in Nigeria.
He reiterated the need for wildlife conservation, 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 in Nigeria, pangolin conservation is yet to attain its full conservation status in the country.
One of the objectives of this program, according to the organisers, is to create a paradigm shift, opening new frontiers for pangolin conservation in Nigeria and encouraging Nigerian scientists to take giant strides in their effort to conserve pangolins.
Taking participants in attendance through a technical session, Cristian Gruppi, from the Centre for Tropical Research, Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles US gave a presentation on Genoscape: A Genomic Approach for Wildlife Conservation.
In explaining the genoscape, he says individuals within a population have more similar genetic codes to each other than individuals from other populations.
“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.
He noted that the map of these genetically distinct populations across geographical space is called a genoscape.
Gruppi says genoscape is a map of genetic variation across a geographic distribution of species and to build the genoscape two pieces of information are required which are the data of the DNA and the information from the location.
He described how the genoscape has been used in their bird project and highlighted in detail how this can be used in pangolin study.
In a second technical session, Elisa Panjang from the Danau Girang –Field Centre Malaysia spoke on pangolin research and conservation in Malaysia. She shared her experiences in pangolin conservation at the collaborative research and training facility managed by Sabah Wildlife Department and Cardiff University.
Present at the event 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 organization’s efforts at stemming the tide of pangolin trafficking in Nigeria.
WildAid and WACI collaborated with the PCGN to celebrate World Pangolin Day 2021.
PCGN continues to pursue its objectives which include, creating awareness on the importance of pangolin conservation among the Nigerian populace, undertaking and collaborating in scientific research to learn more about pangolins to devise appropriate conservation actions, and collaborating with other relevant organisations to help in seeing to law enforcement against pangolin trafficking.
Others include; providing evidence-based advice for policies to the Ministry of Environment and other conservation stakeholders, rescue, rehabilitation, and release of pangolins to protected forest areas.
Prof. Olajumoke Morenikeji, chair, PCGN stated that the organisation has recorded a lot of successes in the past and the group hopes to do more for pangolin conservation in years to come while wishing everyone a happy world pangolin day.