To engage locals in safeguarding the ecosystem and protecting endangered species, the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria (PCGN) has trained law enforcement agents, community leaders, hunters, bush meat sellers, market women, and residents in Epe on pangolin conservation.
The community-based training on pangolin conservation and protection was held from August 9th to 12th 2022, in Epe and was organised by the PCGN in collaboration with the One Health and Development Initiative and supported by the US Consulate.
“Pangolins are in the grassroots, but there is no strong collaboration among all stakeholders to face the challenges of protecting pangolins,” said Olajumoke Morenikeji, a professor and chair of PCGN.
Olajumoke said that one of the gaps in the protective measures based on collaborative efforts is that some stakeholders are unable to identify pangolins when they see one, making it difficult to crack down on traffickers.
“When we started in 2016, most law enforcement and security officials had never seen pangolins before, and then poachers took advantage of their knowledge gap,” she said.
“We are creating awareness, retrieving pangolins from trade, and collaborating with agencies such as National Environmental Standards And Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).”
Corroborating the convener’s position, Adebayo Tajudeen, chief superintendent of corps and the divisional officer, Epe Division Civil Defence, said the training was his first encounter with pangolins.
He said, “With my knowledge academically, this is the first time I’ve heard about pangolins. This programme has created awareness and educated people about the preservation of pangolins. ”
In addition to creating awareness of the ecological importance of this shy animal, overhunting the pangolins will remove them from the food chain and create a gap in the ecosystem; Ajakaye Clement, assistant chief forester, Federal Ministry of Environment, said.
“There are a lot of animals that you can kill and eat without the government raising an eyebrow such as grasscutter, etc. but not endangered species. If you do, the government will come for you,” Clement said. “if we don’t take such urgent and drastic steps, we are at risk of running out of pangolins”
Another threat to pangolins discussed was the strong urge to capture, kill, and sell or eat pangolins.
However, proper training for a change in mindset, particularly among hunters, will deter such behaviour, according to Sikiru Adesada, area commander, Nigerian hunters and forestry security service, Epe.
“Hunters know where and how to look for pangolins. We have been trained in this program to allow pangolins to thrive in the wild so that they can replenish the ecosystem and keep it balanced,” Adesada added.
“The forest is where pangolins belong and can thrive.” Pangolins have suffered an alarming decline in their population over the years. Poaching and habitat loss are important factors that have contributed to their decline in Nigeria.
Pangolins do not fare well in captivity, and the majority die soon after being brought in. This is why there are almost no pangolins in captivity or zoos around the world, according to conservationists.
The training brought about a significant change in the mindset of community stakeholders. A working relationship among community members, law enforcement agencies and the pangolin conservation group ensued and a much needed task force has been created for effective monitoring, reporting, rescue and protection of pangolins to bring pangolin trade and trafficking in Epe to an end.
Consequently, the first Community Pangolin Conservation Taskforce (CPCTF) in Nigeria was created.
Aside from focusing more on reducing pangolin trafficking by enforcing existing laws, PCGN is also researching the biology, ecology and behaviour of pangolins.