U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Statement on
Cameroon’s Destruction of Confiscated Pangolin Scales

February 17, 2017

Cameroon symbolically showed their lack of tolerance for the poaching and trafficking of pangolins 
by burning pangolin scales on February 17, 2017. Credit: Kenneth Cameron / USFWS

Cameroon destroys confiscated pangolin scales and sends a strong message that poaching and trafficking of pangolins will not be tolerated. Credit: Kenneth Cameron / USFWS

On the eve of World Pangolin Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commends the Government of Cameroon for its destruction today of approximately 3 metric tons of confiscated pangolin scales. Pangolins are believed to be the most heavily trafficked wild mammals in the world, with as many as 1 million pangolins being poached from the wild during the last decade. Today’s pangolin scale burn event, the first of its kind in Africa, will send a strong message that the poaching of pangolins and trafficking of their meat and scales will no longer be tolerated in Cameroon.

All eight pangolin species - four in Africa and four in Asia - are now threatened with extinction, largely due to unsustainable and illegal international and domestic trade of their scales for traditional Asian medicine, and trade in their meat, which is considered a luxury food in many cultures. In Africa, hunting of pangolins for local use as bushmeat and for traditional medicine is also occurring at unsustainable rates.

Pangolin Scales before burning. Credit: Kenneth Cameron / USFWS

Pangolin Scales before burning.
Credit: Kenneth Cameron / USFWS

More than 20,000 kg of pangolin scales originating in Central Africa have been seized during the last five years. The government of Cameroon supported the inclusion of all pangolins in Appendix I at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). As of January 2, 2017, the listings have gone into effect, banning the commercial trade of all eight pangolin species.

Since CITES CoP17, Cameroon has shown leadership and commitment to reverse the grim decline of pangolins. Recent large confiscations of pangolin scales by Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) emphasize that this protection is being actively enforced. Today’s pangolin scale burn event is an important step to raise awareness about pangolins and the conservation crisis they are in, and emphasizes Cameroon’s solidarity with law enforcement efforts and global conservation of the species. We applaud these activities and stand by to support Cameroon’s efforts to protect pangolins.

>> See additional photos from Cameroon's pangolin scale destruction event here.

For more information on our MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins) Fellowship Program, which is developing a transdisciplinary team of Central African and Asian conservation practitioners to champion the conservation of pangolins in Central Africa, please visit this page. For additional information on pangolins, please click here.