The Nigerian Association of Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Parks has called on the Federal Government and its law enforcement agencies to ensure the preservation of pangolins to boost wildlife and eco-tourism.
Dr Olajumoke Morenikeji, the President of the association, made the call in an interview with Newsmen ahead of the 7th annual World Pangolin Day on Feb. 17.
The World Pangolin Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of February to raise public awareness of this unique mammal and the possibility of its going into extinction if appropriate actions are not taken.
The theme of the 2018 World Pangolin Day, which is the seventh, “Meet the Pangolin’’.
Pangolins are the only known scaled mammals on earth; as they are covered in hard scales which are made up of keratin.
Morenikeji, who is an associate professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan, said it was regrettable that pangolins were being hunted, killed or exported to countries in Asia.
“I call on the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders, including the customs service, the military, immigration service and the police to step up efforts to protect pangolins in the country.
“Pangolin is a mammal; it has scales, it is going into extinction and it is endangered right now.
“The animal is found in only two continents — Africa and Asia — in Nigeria, it is found in Oyo, Ogun and some other states across the country.
“The ones in Asia are so endangered because of poaching and illegal hunting, they hunt them for food and traditional medicine; they are now searching Africa to remove the ones we have.
“These animals contribute to our wildlife and it is not proper that our wildlife should be exploited without anybody raising an eyebrow or any law being enforced.’’ she said.
The associate professor, who is also the Coordinator of Pangolin Conservation Working Group Nigeria, said that pangolins were important to effective crop production.
“Pangolins feed almost exclusively on ants and termites; one pangolin can feed on 70 million insects in one year, including those insects that attack our crops.
“So, if the pangolin goes into extinction from our ecosystem, there will be an imbalance; the insects feeding on our crops will increase, among other things, and that will eventually affect the human race.
“What I mean is that by the time you remove all pangolins from the ecosystem, one day, the human race may also go extinct because those things serve as buffer for us; God did not make a mistake by putting up everything in place,’’ she said.
Morenikeji said: “That is why we came together to create awareness and try to conserve the animal; we are speaking to law enforcement agencies, school children and hunters.
“When we get the animals, we introduce them to protected forests where they can breed and multiply so that we can have sustainable numbers in the wild.’’
She said that there were extant laws on how such animals should be handled in the country, adding that there were specific sanctions, including fines and jail terms, for those found guilty of flouting the laws.
“But these laws are not effectively enforced; our borders are porous and so, people just come in and take our animals away,’’ she said.
Morenikeji said that this year’s World Pangolin Day would be celebrated at Abeokuta, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo would be the Chief Host of the event.