The Nigerian Conservation Federation (NCF) has warned that anyone found guilty of exploitation and commercial hunting of wild animals risked 10-year imprisonment with an option of N1million fine or both.
Director-General of the federation, Mr Adeniyi Karunwi, gave the warning in Ibadan on Saturday at a workshop organised by the Pangolins Conservation Working Group, Nigeria.
The workshop organized in collaboration with National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), South West Zone and entitled “Speak Up for Pangolins” was in commemoration of 2017 World Pangolins Day.
“Our environment is in danger; a lot of wild animals like pangolins are at the risk of going into extinction and there is over-exploitation of these animals.
“People need to know that exploitation and commercialisation of wildlife identified under Schedule 1 of the Endangered Species Amendment Act is a criminal offence that attracts a 10-year jail term,” Karunwi said.
According to him, conservation of wildlife is important in order to promote ecological tourism to the country.
On her part, Dr Olajumoke Morenikeji, Coordinator, Pangolin Conservation Working Group, said that pangolins risked going into extinction, because they were the most illegally hunted and traded mammals.
Morenikeji, who is an Environmental Biologist, said that pangolins were illegally traded for their scales, meat and body parts which were in high demand in Asia, especially in China and Vietnam.
“Pangolins’ meat is considered a delicacy, while their scales are used in traditional medicine and folk remedies to treat a range of ailments.
“There is insatiable demand for pangolin scales, especially in China where they are used for traditional medicines.
“There is a belief that the scales has curative properties like keratin and can be used to treat skin diseases.
“There is also the claim that its liver, throat and toes can successfully treat asthma, goitre, elephantiasis and impotence,” she said.
She, however, said that the claims of the traditional medicine practitioners were yet to be scientifically evaluated.
“If pangolins go into extinction before research can be done, the human race would have lost a lot of benefits.
“The issue of pangolin is a shame to the country for a recently seized shipment in China contained kilograms of pangolin scales, which totaled 7, 200 pangolins, got from Nigeria. “We are appealing to hunters to stop the exploitation and trafficking of these animals.
“Pangolins, like all animals going to extinction, serve as buffer for human beings. If we remove all the buffers in the ecosystem, one day, the human race will also go into extinction.
“We need a grassroots approach to education and awareness on the importance of pangolin conservation to the ecosystem; humanity should be the guardian of pangolins, not the predator,” Morenikeji said.
In his view, Mr Adeleke Ajani, South-West Zonal Director, NESREA, said that pangolins were important in the maintenance of ecological balance.
“Pangolins need to be sustained because they are very important in the ecosystem; they also serve as biological pest control.
“They are very voracious ant eaters; one pangolin can eat 70 million insects, including pests in a year. This means if you remove all of them you are calling for trouble,” he said.
Describing their sustainability as crucial, Ajani said that pangolins were peculiar animals, which mated only once in a year and gave birth to just a single young one.
“Pangolins are very vulnerable creatures which cannot breed in captivity; they only breed well in their natural environment.
“We need to go into research as well as get the actual inventory of these animals in the wild and see possible means of domesticating them,” he said.
According to Ajani, NESREA, as a regulatory body, is scaling up efforts to prohibit and prosecute the illegal trafficking and international trade of pangolins and their scales.