In July 2019, Mr. Raoul Mbali, Operations Manager of the Forest, Research and Environment in Tshopo Project (FORETS Project) which is based in the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) contacted MENTOR-POP Fellow; Jonas Kambale in Kisangani. On his way from Yangambi to Kisangani (about 100 Km), he met two young boys selling a Black bellied pangolin. When Raoul saw the pangolin, he immediately recalled what he had learned about the mammal during a conference in 2019 that was held at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Kisangani (UNIKIS) where they organized “World Pangolin Day” and celebrated worldwide, every third Saturday in February.
He purchased the pangolin from the young boys and brought it to Kisangani where it would be rescued and handed to the MENTOR-POP team for eventual release back into the wild.
When Raoul arrived Kisangani, the animal was weak, likely because it was malnourished and dehydrated. Pangolins are vulnerable because of their specific diet, feeding mostly on ants and termites. The pangolin would not survive long in captivity due to the lack of rehabilitation facilities and expertise. Together with Raoul, the pangolin was offered to the Museum of UNIKIS. The curator of this Museum decided to stuff the pangolin and display it to the public to raise awareness and educate visitors of the Museum.
Pangolins are the only scaly mammals in the world, but they are at risk of extinction due to rapid increase in trafficking, poaching, overhunting and habitat loss. They are the most trafficked wild mammals in the world, with over one million pangolins estimated to have been harvested and trafficked within the last decade. Pangolins are luxury meat in Asia, especially in China and Vietnam and the scales are highly desired for Asian traditional medicine. As the populations of Asian species have dwindled over the past years, traffickers have shifted to Africa to meet the Asian market demand, making the African species increasingly vulnerable to extinction. In DRC, the giant pangolin is completely protected, while the white-bellied pangolin and the black-bellied pangolin have partial protection. Today, all pangolins species (four species in Africa and four species in Asia) are classified in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning a complete ban in international trade in pangolins or their parts.
Written by Jonas Kambale, MENTOR-POP Fellow and Fanimal Advisory Council Member
To celebrate World Pangolin Day 2021, please consider donating to the Cameroon Pangolin Working Group using the form below. Our goal is to raise $250 to support the CPWG. Donations will help support the CPWG develop a national conservation strategy.