Protecting pangolins in Central Africa

White-bellied pangolin (c) Tim Wacher, ZSL


Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are the most trafficked wild mammals in the world. ZSL's MENTOR (Mentoring for Environmental Training in Outreach and Resource conservation) POP (Progress on Pangolins) fellowship programme aims to develop a cross-disciplinary team of conservation leaders to address the increasing threats to the Congon Basin's pangolins. Major threats pangolins currently face include:

  • Poaching and uncontrolled harvest to feed the national and regional bushmeat trade
  • Demand for luxury meat and traditional medicinal use in Africa and Asia.

The MENTOR POP Fellowship Programme, a cooperative agreement between the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and ZSL, aims to address these threats and conserve pangolins by developing a team of early-career Central African and Asian conservation practitioners from varied disciplines to champion the conservation of pangolins in the Congo Basin. 

ZSL - host organisation for this programme - and the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group are involved in pangolin conservation in Cameroon and Asia and will provide support with project implementation, as well as pangolin expertise, site-based ecological assessments, bio-monitoring and law enforcement.

Why we are there

Of eight species of pangolin, four are found in Africa and all are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. The illegal wildlife trade represents a major threat for all pangolin species, with an increasing demand in Africa. 

Three pangolin species are found in the Congo Basin:

  • The white-bellied tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis)
  • The black-bellied tree pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla)
  • The giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea).

Until now, these species have received little conservation attention, and there is a lack of knowledge on the impacts of bushmeat trade on their populations. The Cameroon government is encouraging international cooperation around conservation challenges such as wildlife trafficking, but despite significant in-country expertise on wildlife conservation, there is still a need for specialized pangolin experts to focus on the threats to pangolins and to implement creative solutions.

Cameroon is therefore the right place to test innovative methods to conduct biological field assessments and address pangolin bushmeat trade and trafficking.


Objectives and Goals

The goal of this programme is to develop capacity to secure the future of the Congo Basin’s three species of pangolin. To achieve this, a team of nine Central African and Asian Fellows are being trained and equipped with the skills and tools to design and deliver conservation programmes to address threats to the Congo Basin’s three pangolin species.

MENTOR POP Fellows will be provided with academic and field-based training and internships, mentoring from experienced conservation professionals, and experiential learning in best conservation practices.

The programme will cover critical areas for pangolin conservation, including:

  • Field assessments on pangolin populations
  • Offtake, trade
  • Law enforcement
  • Demand reduction.

As part of the programme, Fellows are shadowing professionals who are experts on their areas of interest for addressing pangolin conservation.

Fellows are working in three Action Groups (1) Field Assessments, 2) Legal Systems, and 3) Demand Reduction to develop and implement projects to conserve pangolins.

The programme setting is in Cameroon but its ultimate goal is to stabilize the pangolin populations in Central Africa and to disrupt their trafficking circuits to SE Asia.

Project information

Key species

People involved

  • Francis Tarla (Programme Co-ordinator)
  • Chris Ransom (Programme Manager for West and North Africa, ZSL)
  • Paul De Ornellas (Assistant Programme Manager for Africa, ZSL)
  • Carly Waterman (Pangolin Technical Specialist, ZSL)
  • Nancy Gelman (Programme Officer, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Without Borders, Africa Program)



Cameroon Annual Report 2018.pdf (5.79 MB)

More information

More information on the USFWS MENTOR (Mentoring for ENvironmental Training in Outreach and Resource Conservation) programme is available here.

Pangolin conservation at ZSL