Amid continuous depletion of African Pangolin population, especially for international trade cumulating to the loss of over $900million yearly, environmentalists have stressed the need to raise awareness on the endangered species and put in place reward system for those who help in ensuring seizures of the highly priced mammal.

Pangolins are African /Asian mammal that has a body covered with horny overlapping scales, small head with elongated snout, long stick tongue for catching ants/termites and tapering tail.

Pangolin is being hunted and killed in vast numbers in Africa, where its scales are trafficked to Asia through organised criminal networks.

The meat is also considered as a culinary delicacy in Asia and its scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine especially for treatment of cancer and improving breast milk.

The pangolin scales are transported from African villages to the cities from where Chinese middlemen allegedly ship them to Asia via an elaborate criminal smuggling network that passes through Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Mainland China.

February 17 marks World Pangolin Day, a day to commemorate and bring awareness to the plight of the pangolin; which experts say is the most trafficked animal in the world.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in partnership with the Pangolin Conservation Guild Nigeria, themed “Pangolins & Politics”, to mark the day, Assistant Comptroller of Customs, Federal Operation Unit, Ikeja, Sule Mutalib expressed dismay that the rate at which the mammal is hunted and Killed in Asia and Africa calls for drastic action to save them from total extinction.

The occasion featured on-the-spot drawing and painting contest on pangolin and nature among the primary school pupils.

Yahyala Goje of Royal Treasure Junior School emerged as the winner, while Power Emmanuel and Emmanuel Emanuel of Maria Breed Academy were the first and second runners up.

Mr. Mutalib disclosed that a total of 14,8333 metric tonnes of pangolin seizure was made by the unit in 2018 adding that from studies across the world the figure formed the highest seizure pangolin for illicit international trade in the world.

“Japan came a distant second having made a seizure of 7.100kilograms in the same year with estimated value of $450million. Nigeria seizure under my watch cannot be less than $900million or even more”. He advised environmental organisations to persuade government to put in place adequate reward for officer saddled with the task of mitigating the illicit trade while speedy trial procedure should be put in place by the judiciary to culprits who are mostly foreigners.

Director General of NCF, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano said raising awareness on the preservation of Pangolins started recently globally and very late in Nigeria noting that the occasion is the first in Nigeria. He explained that there is big relationship between wild life and politics because trade in the later is big money and money is related to politics.

“A kilogram of pangolin scale goes for between $10,000 to $15, 000 and such trades happens between countries and not within the same countries. There is a lot of politics both international and diplomatic and within the country. The reason for poor awareness on pangolins is because most people haven’t seen the pangolin and due to the fact that the animals are very shy and only come out at night

The founder of Pangolin Conservation Organisation, United States of America, Mr. Justin Miller who was the guest speaker explained that the greatest threat to Pangolin is its consumption by subsistence farmer, sale, hunting and use for traditional medicine especially for treating Cancer and other skin diseases.

He stated that since conservation is a political process, practitioners should work with local communities and special groups as a means to stop the unending poaching of the animal.

“It is important to go through a lot of people involved in political process, collaborate with researchers and partner with communities to enforce habitat protection for the pangolins”, he said.

On her part, the Chairperson of Pangolin Conservation Working Group of Nigeria, (PCWGN), Dr. Olajumoke Morenikeji who was the keynote speaker called for collaboration between the media, researchers, security agencies, ministry of the environment and environmental non-governmental organisations to end poaching and illicit international trade of Pangolin which she noted help in protecting biodiversity and the earth.