The Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in 2016 banned international trade in pangolins, some types of which are on the International Union for the Conservation of Wildlife’s Red List of Threatened Species nature (IUCN). But despite the ban on its trade, the trafficking of this animal continues and African species join the contraband market. The scales of the pangolin, present only in Africa and Asia, feed an important world traffic.
Poaching in Liberia is as much a livelihood as a way of life.
Defenders of the protection of this species are mobilizing to save it, because it remains a source of income for the poorest and a popular dish in West Africa.
Liberia remains fertile ground for traffickers. There is a high demand in the market.
“There are people who buy, that’s why we sell”, explains the chief hunter of a Liberian village, aged in his fifties.
The money is used to buy basic necessities like soap, say some villagers. According to the World Bank, 44% of people in Liberia live on less than $1.9 a day.
Among the most poached in the world, the pangolin has been protected since 2016 in this country. Hunting and marketing it is punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to six months in prison.
“Every day, poachers and hunters kill our protected species” for a trade that “annihilates our natural heritage”, explains to AFP (Agence France Presse) Edward Appleton, who heads the unit against trafficking within the forest authority.
The ban on poaching is enforced with less vigor in these villages due to the utilitarian conception of animals and old consumption habits in rural areas. This increasingly complicates the task of nature conservationists.
Reputed to act on arthritis, ulcers, tumors and menstrual pain – virtues never scientifically established, pangolin scales are in great demand in China and Vietnam.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Africa and mainly Nigeria, Cameroon, Guinea and Liberia have become the main suppliers since Asia ceased to be the main source of supply of pangolins due to declining numbers.
A study by the Society for Conservation Biology, a professional organization dedicated to the scientific study of the maintenance and restoration of biodiversity, indicates that since 2017 between 400,000 and 2,700,000 pangolins are hunted each year in the forests of Central Africa.