Nigerians are helping Chinese nationals traffic an endangered species

Pangolins are being hunted and trafficked for their tough armour and meat, which is considered a delicacy served to rich people.

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Despite the legal protection and restriction of sale or consumption of the animal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) - a multilateral treaty signed by 183 nations - Nigeria joins other Sub Saharan countries where the illegal sale and use of pangolins body parts are on the increase.

In a report by Shanghaiist, a Chinese website, the rare and adorable animals are being hunted in China for their tough armour and meat, which is considered a delicacy served to rich people.

So expensive is the pangolin delicacy that the wildlife mammal can fetch up to 5,000 yuan (N281,126) per kilogram.

All species of the pangolin are in danger of extinction, some more critically than others.

In Sub Saharan Africa - Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin Republic and Nigeria - pangolins are illegally hunted and sold by to buyers - mostly traditional healers and Chinese nationals.

Sadly, many of the hunters or traffickers in Nigeria are unaware of either the conservation status of this animals or the existence of any legal machinery regulating its trade.

Nigerian customs intercept pangolins trafficking in Lagos

Between February 15, 2018, and March 22, 2018, a large number of pangolins were intercepted by the Nigerian customs.

Acting on a tip, Nigerian customs operatives raided the apartment of a Chinese national, Ko Sin Ying, in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos and recovered some 4,400 pounds of pangolin scales and 218 ivory tusks.

According to Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, the number of trafficked pangolins and elephant tusks seized by the customs was valued at a staggering N493,520,000.

In less than a month later, the Customs again intercepted and confiscated another 329 sacks of pangolin scales, weighing 8,492kg and valued at N732,857,393.

Pangolins’ medicinal myth

From Asia to Africa, traditional medicine practitioners strongly believe that pangolin scales, blood, other body parts, and carcass have great medicinal values. This belief has further boosted the illegal hunting and trafficking of the mammal across the globe.

According to the Shanghaiist website, pangolins are believed by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to help cure cancer and asthma, among other ailments.

In a journal written by Durojaye A. Soewu and Ibukun A. Ayodele in the US National Library of Medicine on the utilisation of pangolin in traditional Yoruba medicine, the mammal is researched to be used for alleged medicinal purposes in Ijebu province of Ogun state, Southwest Nigeria.

According to the report, a total of 178 whole pangolin carcasses were sold into traditional medical practices.

Known as aika, arika or akika, pangolins were used in various preparations to treat a total of 42 conditions. These include infertility, gastrointestinal disorders, safe parturition, stomach ulcers, rheumatism, and fibroid. Traditional Yorubic medicine also accommodated some situations that are out of the range of conventional medicine like boosting sales, conferring invisibility, removing bad luck, appeasing/warding off witches cum evil forces and money rituals. Some of these situations specifically require juvenile, or even pregnant female animals.

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