Environment journalists have been trained on the role reptiles like Pangolins play in conservation. This follows recent developments threatening them to extinction due to a booming trafficking trade to satisfy demand internationally. Statistics shows over 90 Pangolins were poached in 2020 alone in Malawi.
Pangolins are reptiles hunted for meat, they are also use in traditional medicine and as fashion accessories, particularly in China and Vietnam. The large-scale illegal trade in Asian pangolins is drastically driving down their numbers, and trafficking is now huge (and illegal) business.
All eight pangolin species are protected under national and international laws, and two are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature, red list of threatened species. An estimated 1 million pangolins were trafficked in the last 10 years, though this number may be conservative given the volume of recent pangolin scale seizures according to the World Wildlife Fund.
In the wake of these global trafficking occurrences, a joint training was organized by Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. Participants were drawn from wide range of media houses across the country.
Patrick Chinguwo, Michiru Nature Sanctuary Manager told participants there has been a surge for illegal possession of Pangolins of which Malawians are conniving with other foreigners on wildlife related offences. According to Chinguwo, it is against this background that government is still pushing for enactment of new laws to protect Pangolins saying they play a huge role in food chain and web.
“This species [pangolin] is protected by both local and international law, but surprisingly between 2020 to 2021 cases of Pangolin trafficking increased to 95 percent. It is important therefore to come up with basic solutions to conserve the animal,” explained Chinguwo in an interview.
“If you can notice the trend on how people have been arrested. You will realize that the source of these Pangolins in Malawi is everywhere. However, Malawians are the primary sources of the trafficking syndicate because after investigation, there is a foreigner behind the scene,” elaborated Chinguwo.
It is worrisome Chinguwo pointed out that Malawi continues to be used as renowned southern African’s principal transit hub for wildlife crime. AEJ President, Mathews Malata urged the journalists to be on forefront in sensitizing masses about Pangolins saying with the training they are change agents from an informed perspective.
Malata urged scribes, if Malawi is to contain Pangolin trafficking journalists needed to consider environment and give their stories a human face every day.
He said,” Malawi needs joint effort from journalists to address Pangolin trafficking. Furthermore, all arrested traffickers should be sentenced as deterrent to would be offenders. I am very sure the training provided today will help journalists one way or the other to save Pangolin’s species.”
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Communications Manager, Samantha Nampuntha acknowledged, her organization understands the power of media hence training the journalists as one way of solving the pangolin trafficking problem.
Additional reporting by Charles Mkoka
Photos courtesy : Lilongwe Wildlife Trust