As the world celebrate the Pangolin Day this February 20th, 2021, it should bear witness to the fact that the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in her efforts remain steadfast to the survival of the remaining pangolin population in the eastern region of Cameroon, a region with cultural inertia on bush meat, a region full with refugees from neighboring Central Africa and a region of growing cross border crimes.
This fight for the liberation of the remaining pangolin population under the captive of the local people who are either poor, unemployed, limited access to education with little or no knowledge on conservation is a task ERuDeF is engaging into through the creation of community forests, massive sensitization campaigns, promising alternative sources of livelihood and bringing reforestation to degraded ecosystems. By so doing, the attention of the local people will be diverted from hunting, they will have a sense of community engaging by controlling their forest resources and thus the habitats of the pangolins are going to be restored.
Bertoua, the “land of the Rising Sun” remains the capital of the bush meat market in the East region of Cameroon. Every day, about 70 to 100 animals are sold and eaten in Bertoua, including 4 to 6 pangolins. At the well-known Derriere Porto bush meat market, everyday a smoked, freshly killed or a life pangolin is seen or bought amidst other rodents, ungulates, primates, carnivores, amphibians and reptiles. Many Cameroonians prefer bush meat to domestic livestock as they are easily available and cheaper.
The most disappointing act about the pangolins in the market is that every week, life pangolins are brought to the market and are seen struggling to run away but are either brutally smashed on the neck, head or on the body. This has caused so much grief and distress to helpless conservationist who may want to safe the pangolin but in vain. According to a 2017 study, at least 400,000 pangolins are hunted and consumed in Central Africa each year.
The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) is a conservation civil society organization, which has proven to champion Conservation in Cameroon for over 20 years and won the Whitely Fund for Nature Award for conserving critically endangered Cross River Gorillas. With the pangolin in peril, ERuDeF is willing to extend her sphere of influence beyond primates especially Great Apes to this specie. While conservation of pangolins in Bertoua especially around the periphery where these animals are caught like the Deng Deng National Park and the Dja Reserve is challenging, ERuDeF Still remains determined and trust its strategies to curb the killing of these species, while providing solutions to the plight of the local people.
The Nlonako Mountain area as well, which hosts two (the White and Black bellied Pangolin) out of the four species found in Africa are threatened by intensive hunting, destruction of habitat for agriculture and the use of pesticides. They are eaten as bush meat and the scales are used in traditional medicine or for trade. This illegal trade takes place despite prohibitions under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). A lack of awareness and information along with insufficient political pressure makes tackling the black-market trade more challenging.
In this light, the Environment and Rural Development foundation, ERuDeF is soliciting aid from Partners in extending her activities towards the conservation of pangolin in the East Region of Cameroon by engaging in aggressive sensitization campaigns, provision of alternative source of livelihood to hunters (through training in bees keeping and agroforestry) so that the pressure on pangolin be reduced, making the conservation of pangolin in the East Region a reality not more a hot midday summer dream.
While government and NGOs focused themselves in protecting pangolins, hunters and many traders and traffickers have seen pangolins conservation as threats to their source of protein and deprivation of income from the sale of the smoked pangolin and scales which are used for medicinal purposes. Local consumers say pangolins have a unique taste and which is unavoidable to someone who has ever had a taste of it. This makes pangolins more vulnerable to hunters despite attempts to protect them.
If one may want to put it straight, taking statistics from the consumption of pangolin in Bertoua, one will undoubtedly agree there is still an encouraging number of Pangolins in the East Region but the population is declining drastically. The IUCN states Pangolins as endangered species, there is therefore urgent need to put a stop to the pangolin syndrome in the East through the reinforcement of laws on wildlife protection and effective follow up by the Regional Delegation of Forestry and wildlife (MINFOF).
Thus, this fight to protect Cameroon pangolins is enduring and so, ERuDeF remains open and optimistic that with the support of the Cameroon government and other national and international nature conservation organizations the dream of pangolin survival shall become a reality.
“Together, let us protect the pangolin”