Cameroon has become a leader in pangolin conservation in Central Africa with the help of MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins), a fellowship programme developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with ZSL.
Ahead of World Pangolin Day in February, the government of Cameroon conducted Africa’s first-ever public burn of confiscated pangolin scales, showing their commitment to conserving the world’s most heavily-trafficked wild mammal. World Pangolin Day also became World Pangolin Week for the very first time in Cameroon, raising much-needed awareness of the threats facing pangolins, as Fellows Esua Etogekwe Fossung and Camille Nkoa Affana explain.
In the past decade, more than a million pangolins have been poached to meet demand for their meat and scales. Education is key to conserving the species, and Cameroon’s leadership on pangolin conservation was evident in several activities held on or around World Pangolin Day.
The US Embassy in Cameroon supported MENTOR-POP activities at PROMOTE – an international trade exhibition. Here, we were able to reach out to hundreds of people and were really encouraged by the positive reactions of the local community. They were proud to know that Cameroon is home to three out of the four African species, and made a commitment to spread the word and support pangolin conservation.
There were also activities in the Mbam et Djerem National Park (MDNP), which is home to three species of pangolin and is considered an area of concern for their conservation in Cameroon. We engaged with children through dancing, singing, and a soccer game with the black-bellied pangolin team vs the white-bellied pangolin team, and helped to instil pride among local communities.
The greatest spokesperson at these festivities was the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, His Excellency M. Michael Hoza. He made a tremendous impact on everyone, from government officials and tribal chiefs to cattle herders and school children, and emphasised the important role that everyone can play.
Our reach went a lot further than the people we met though and we were thrilled that the media showed a keen interest. Three Fellows appeared on Cameroon’s national TV channel – CRTV – to talk about the importance of protecting pangolins, and we had a great reaction to this on social media. We also spearheaded what is believed to be the first wildlife-focused social media campaign in Cameroon, targeting a broad audience across the region, reaching more than 154,000 people.
“Pangolin conservation is not a one-person battle, it is not an NGO problem, it is not a one-country issue, it is not a fight for MENTOR-POP alone,” says MENTOR-POP Fellow Camille Nkoa Affana. “We all need to work together to ensure that pangolins are protected and have a future in the wild.”
World Pangolin Day presented an opportunity to do just that: to showcase the determination of MENTOR-POP Fellows, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Cameroon’s government, and the international community to fight against the illegal wildlife trade. Everyone has a part to play and through engaging so many more people, it brings us hope for the future.
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