The Government of Liberia, through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and its national and international partners working in the country’s forest sector, held an elaborate program marking World Pangolin Day.
The celebration, which was was held on Feb. 19 in line with the global protocol that calls for all nations to raise maximum awareness on the environmental importance of Pangolins and their role in protecting the forest and biodiversity.
Labeled as a colorful and successful occasion, the third-celebration of World Pangolin Day, held at the Paynesville City Hall Community Park, was graced by a number of key government officials, representatives of foreign missions, civil society groupings, students, cultural groups, market women groups, among many others. As a prelude, the groups began parading from the Paynesville Community School (at Joe Bar) to the Paynesville City Park, where the outdoor event took place.
Representing FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen as keynote speaker, the Wildlife Consultant to FDA, Edward Gbeintor acknowledged the sustained collaboration that exists between FDA and its national and international partners and called for further increased collaborative efforts at a time when illegal activities against the health of the forest and protected animals were on the increase.
Mr. Gbeintor used the occasion to reiterate FDA's unrelenting collaboration with its partners at all times, if and when Liberia’s forest and wildlife treasures are to remain environmentally safe or preserved to benefit present and succeeding generations.
He raised alarm against the possible danger to the survival of the forest when Pangolins and other wildlife are left unprotected only to become extinct through unwarranted means including trading, killing, hunting and trafficking, which he said obviously undermines the existence of mankind.
The keynote speaker then urged all partners to join the government through the Forestry Development Authority in combating those illegal activities that tend to undermine efforts being exerted to preserve the forest and biodiversity.
He continued, “the day is an opportunity for pangolins and the communities to join hands in raising awareness about these unique mammals,” adding, “pangolins are a highly prized commodity often illegally trafficked and killed for its scale by organized crime networks,” he noted, citing prevailing research.
Meanwhile, in separate remarks, the partners including USAID, UK, EU, FFI, HSI, LCRP, WCF, SCNL, WABiLED, EPA, LiWiSa, among others, have promised to invest in the forest sector but called for robust actions against wanton violators who are bent on illegally destroying the forest and biodiversity.
They called for an uncompromising law enforcement regime that will deter the ugly habits of poaching, hunting, trafficking and killing of pangolins and other wildlife.
Earlier, the Director of the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, Susan Wiper, provided the overview of the program and appreciated the FDA and all partners for honoring the invitation to attend the occasion which, she said, is very critical in the protection of wildlife consistent with the law that prohibits their illegal killing, hunting and trading.
Current research indicates that there are 8 species of pangolins in the world (4 in Asia, 4 in Africa) and Liberia is home to 3 of them the White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), the Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) and the Giant Pangolin (Smutsia gigantea).
Asian species are already close to extinction so now many pangolins are being poached from Africa to be shipped to Asia (mostly China and Vietnam), where they wrongly believe their scales are of medicinal value and where the meat is considered a delicacy.
This makes pangolins the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Their scales are wanted more than rhino horn, elephant tusks or tiger parts.
Researchers estimate one million pangolins have been illegally traded in the last 16 years and, given the current increased scarcity, it has been difficult to estimate the current populations of the 8 pangolin species.
However, international pressure has mounted to prevent the pangolin’s extinction. A few years ago, at the Conference on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Conference of the Parties, where the world’s conservation agencies meet, pangolins received appendix I protection.
Appendix I means the highest level of protection offered by the organization and urges the 183 affiliated nations to enforce the strictest possible conservation measures. In Liberia, all pangolins are protected by law: it is a federal crime to hunt, kill, eat and keep them.
In Liberia, all confiscated pangolins are brought to the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary which was established in 2017 in collaboration with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).
Their main mission is the rescue, rehabilitation and release of protected animals and, to date, 71 pangolins have been brought into the sanctuary with the help of the FDA and the Confiscation Unit (funded by the EU).
Pangolins are very sensitive creatures and prone to stress, so they need a lot of rehabilitation and nurturing before they are returned to the wild but the sanctuary was happy to announce that they have successfully released 47 over the past five years.
“The sanctuary will continue to work tirelessly to save the pangolins of Liberia,” Wiper said. We hope that the current culture changes from one of hunting, killing and eating ants bears to one of respect for the part that they play in our ecosystem as the guardians of the forests.
“Pangolins play an important role in keeping the forest healthy: they are the only mammal in West Africa to control ants and termite populations. Without pangolins, the forest we rely on for oxygen and timber will be destroyed. That is why it is of great importance to preserve pangolins in Liberia.”