Thu. May 16th, 2024

Over the previous two years, pangolin meat consumption in urban Cameroon has drastically decreased, according to a WildAid study, because public knowledge of and support for a 2017 law that outlaws the taking and killing of these endangered creatures has increased significantly.

More than sixty percent of urban Cameroonians are now aware of legislation passed seven years ago banning the capture and killing of pangolins, more than double the number in 2022. Two-thirds of city and town dwellers now support the protection of pangolins, according to a survey conducted in five towns and cities by Cible Etudes & Conseil, a Cameroonian research company.

In 2022, WildAid, partnered with Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF), launched a campaign to raise awareness about the law and the threats facing pangolins. Cameroonian musicians, footballers, and traditional leaders encouraged their compatriots, and led the campaign to “Say No to Pangolin Meat.”

Two years later, WildAid surveyed public opinion among 500 respondents in Yaoundé and Douala and in Bertoua, Ebolowa, and Mbalmayo, where pangolin meat consumption has traditionally been relatively high.

Awareness of the law banning the capture and killing of pangolins has more than doubled in the past two years, with 61.6% of people in the latest survey correctly saying that all pangolin species are protected, up from 28.9% in 2022. The proportion of respondents agreeing that hunting and killing pangolins should be forbidden rose to 67.0%, up from 56.4% two years before.

Cameroon stepped up pangolin protection on the heels of a ban on international trade in pangolins under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as CITES. Anyone found in possession of a pangolin or any part of the animal without a license is deemed to have captured or killed it and faces a fine of about FCFA 3 million to 10 million ($4,900 to $16,400) and imprisonment of 1–3 years.

WildAid indicates that then, awareness of the law was low, and pangolin meat was still openly consumed in Cameroon’s cities, a commercial trade that pushed pangolins towards extinction.

Nearly 60% of respondents said they had seen the campaign, and 29.0% said it had convinced them to stop eating pangolin meat. A further 5.4% said the campaign had convinced them to eat less pangolin meat, a sign the situation is beginning to change.

According to the survey, in the cities and towns of Yaoundé, Douala, Ebolowa, and Mbalmayo, the number of people who said they consume pangolin meat once a month or more frequently fell to 10.3% in 2024, down from 14.1% in 2022. That’s a decline of 26.7%. There was a slight rise in reported consumption in Bertoua, over the period, but researchers said strict post-pandemic controls on bushmeat consumption remained in place in that town when the survey was conducted in 2022, not only depressing bushmeat consumption but also making people reluctant to admit to eating bushmeat at that time. “We are very encouraged to see the growing support for pangolin conservation and the decline in consumption of pangolin meat in Cameroon,” said Simon Denyer, Africa program manager at WildAid. “Creating a haven for pangolins in Cameroon is key to ensuring their survival in Africa, a big step in the right direction.”

WildAid hailed the government for stepping up its enforcement of the law. On March 30, wildlife and law enforcement officials raided the Nkolndongo market in Yaounde, one of the largest illegal bushmeat markets in the country, on the orders of the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Jules Doret Ndongo. A team of 71 agents paid a surprise visit to the market looking for protected species on sale and rescued six live white-bellied pangolins and one monitor lizard.

Pangolins are thought to be the most trafficked animal in the world. WildAid also works in Asia to reduce demand for pangolin scales, which are widely used in traditional medicine, even though scientific studies have found no evidence of any medicinal value.

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