YAOUNDE, Cameroon – Cameroonian police say they have seized parts of an estimated 2,000 pangolins in Cameroon and neighboring Equatorial Guinea and Gabon for the first time during the pandemic. Police say travel restrictions had slowed smuggling of the endangered anteater into Asia, where its meat is considered a delicacy and the scales are used in traditional medicine.
At least 12 bags of pangolin scales and leopard skins are found in a police warehouse in Nlonkak, a neighborhood in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde.
Claude Mboutou Abesolo, the ranking officer of the police station, said pangolin scales and leopard skins were seized from smugglers in Yaonde this week.
Abesolo says the smugglers were arrested while preparing to move scales and animal skins to Cameroon’s neighboring Nigeria.
He says police in Cameroon, Nigeria and Benin are cooperating to track down other members of a group of pangolin smugglers operating in three countries. He says that it will not take long for the smugglers to fall into the trap of the police. He says that some smugglers have been arrested in Cameroon.
Cameroon burns 3 tons of pangolins seized from smugglers
Cameroon has burned more than three tons of pangolin skins and scales confiscated from smugglers and destined for Asian countries. The central African state says that by burning the skin of the world’s most trafficked mammal and arresting smugglers, it is sending a strong signal that Cameroon will no longer be a country where poaching and trafficking run rampant. Cameroon’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife Philippe Ngole Ngwese says pangolin skins and scales were confiscated on three occasions in Douala and…
Abesolo did not say how many people had been arrested, but said the youngest of the smugglers is 24 years old. He said some pangolin scales and leopard skins are either hidden in Cameroon or are being illegally shipped to Nigeria, from where they will be smuggled into Asian countries, especially China.
Police said the campaign was supported by Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and conservation group The Last Great Ape.
The group’s vice-president, Eric Kaaba Tah, says about 2,000 pangolins have been illegally killed in Cameroon over the past 16 months. Tah says the scales are hiding in houses and bushes. He says that with the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions and police controls, smugglers are struggling to smuggle pangolin scales from Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
“Wildlife smugglers turned out to be causing problems due to the restraint in mobility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but right now we are seeing a recombination, we are seeing more and more smugglers in pangolin scales. We see pangolin scales except Cameroon and going to other Central African countries and Nigeria where it is exported to Asian countries.
Tah said villagers in Cameroon who have lost their jobs or whose agricultural work has been affected by COVID-19 are selling pangolins to smugglers, who kill the animals for their scales.
Harauna Nyandji Mgbatou is a senior government official, a division officer in the first district of Yaounde, where Nalonkak is. He says that the government will ensure that those helping the smugglers are prosecuted.
He says Cameroonians should report smugglers and reduce poaching. He says pangolins are protected to maintain a balanced ecosystem and protect humans and the forest from environmental degradation. Mgbatou says Cameroon’s government will not spare anyone who helps sell or sell pangolin scales.
According to Cameroonian wildlife law, anyone found in possession of pangolin scales or parts is deemed to have killed the anteater and is liable to one to three years in prison and a payment of up to $20,000.
Cameroon reports that pangolins are killed in the Central African state and smuggled into Asian countries where demand is high. A small number of pangolins are killed for food.
Last year, pangolin scales were removed from the list of approved ingredients for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Animal protection groups said the move was an important step in curbing the trade in pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammal.
The Last Great Ape and the government of Cameroon say that the efforts of Chinese authorities have not stopped the slaughter of pangolins in the country.