Enhance safety for near-extinct pangolin

Sunda pangolin at Singapore Zoo

A pangolin feeding on termites. Pangolins are sold in the black market, especially in the Asian countries, as they are associated with mystical powers.

Photo credit: Roslan Rashman | AFP

I appreciate the efforts of the Daily Nation newspaper to highlight the plight of pangolins through a recent story.

This small mammal is becoming the most illegally traded and exported—more than even the rhino. If the government and all of us will not take the necessary measures to protect these precious animals, they will become extinct right before our eyes—just like other animals, such as some rhino species, have.

It will be such a shame if the future generations will read that some animals were in our midst and we didn’t protect them. The rate at which the population of pangolins is reducing is saddening to those who care about these and other wildlife.

Pangolins are sold in the black market, especially in the Asian countries, as they are associated with mystical powers. A single animal, as small as it is, goes for around Sh4 million—which, therefore, gives poachers sleepless nights as they plot how to get hold of the animal.

Myths

Myths around pangolins include that its scales treat many diseases and help to solve financial challenges. The traditional medicine in the Asian countries provides a huge market for pangolins owing to such beliefs.

Its meat is also mythically regarded as a delicacy and that it solves medical conditions related to male sexuality, such as erectile dysfunction, and as an aphrodisiac.

There are no exact figures on the pangolin population and that may have contributed a lot in terms of the animal being trafficked. African pangolins, however, continue to be the most trafficked animal—compared to those found in the other continents. There’s an urgency to know the pangolin numbers so that they can be monitored to detect a decrease or increase.

The war in saving pangolins will not be won single-handedly. All the relevant stakeholders—including Kenyan, African and world citizens—should step up to save this animal, whose enemies appear to rapidly increase.

Carry out campaigns

There’s a need to take a leaf from protection measures for elephants and rhinos lest we lose pangolins. The police, members of the public and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and stakeholders like animal research institutes should carry out campaigns to protect the animals.

Pangolins play a very critical role in the ecosystem and their extinction will have a huge negative impact on the environment.

Kenya should lobby countries with the biggest market for pangolin products to make trade in it illegal. A law to curb shipment of these animals, with heavy punishment—such as a fine or imprisonment—should be passed so that culprits are dealt with.

It is also important to sensitise members of the public so that they can easily report suspicious activities that could be promoting trafficking in pangolins.

Let us all take good care of pangolins to save them from the threat of ever-growing network of traffickers and their beneficiaries. It is our responsibility.


Vincent Kemboi, Nairobi

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