Nigeria has seized a total of 1,613 tons of pangolin scales meant for illicit trading in 2022.
Abimbola Animashawun-Isafiade, OiC of Nigeria Customs Service Special Wildlife Office, made this known at the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria symposium to mark the 2023 World Pangolin Day in Ibadan, Oyo state.
Animashawun-Isafiade said that Nigeria made four seizures from illegal wildlife trade in 2022, with only three having pangolin scales while adding that 14 persons – both Nigerians and foreigners were arrested concerning the crime.
She identified the widespread dearth of knowledge about the mammal as a factor fuelling the illegal trade in the country while calling for collaboration among stakeholders in combating illegal wildlife trade.
“There is a need for the coming together of all stakeholders in, and with unity of purpose to support the implementation of Nigeria’s Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime (2022-2026),” she said.
She also called for capacity building of security operatives to improve investigative techniques.
Olajumoke Morenikeji, a professor and chair of the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria (PCGN), said that the conservation and protection of pangolins in Nigeria is the collective responsibility of all citizens.
Morenikeji said that poachers have turned to Africa to supply tons of pangolins to the Asian market, and if left unchecked, the mammal will 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,” Morenikeji who is also the regional chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) SSC Pangolin Specialist Group – West Africa said.
“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.
She 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 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.”
Also, Commandant Adaralewa Michael Tayo 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 awareness.
He called for amendments to the country’s wildlife conservation laws to better tackle current poaching as well as protect endangered species.
“Laws of wildlife conservation should be amended to better tackle the current poaching trends and protect endangered wildlife from being consumed for food.”
Elijah Udofia, director southwest zone, NESREA called for a united front against pangolin extinction in the country, noting that the lack of specialist rehabilitation units to return seized pangolins back into the wild is a challenge in the conservation of the mammal.
The symposium, which was done in support and collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment, had Joseph Kruzich, US Consulate public affairs officer and Oliver Stolpe, United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) Nigerian representative deliver speeches on the importance of pangolin and its conservation. They also spoke on what the US and UN are doing to stem the tide of illegal pangolin trade.