World Pangolin Day Celebration in
Mbam et Djerem National Park, Cameroon


Cameroon has become a leader in pangolin conservation in Central Africa, in part because of the efforts of MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins), an 18-month fellowship program developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, which is one of the most recent programs in the MENTOR Fellowship series.

This year, Cameroon’s leadership on pangolin conservation was evident in several activities held on or around World Pangolin Day (February 18), including a pangolin scale destruction event, outreach by MENTOR-POP and the U.S. Embassy at a week-long international business trade fair in Yaoundé, a regional social media campaign, and high-level awareness-raising activities at Mbam et Djerem National Park (MDNP). Camille Nkoa Affana, one of the MENTOR-POP Fellows, shares his experience at MDNP celebrating World Pangolin Day.

Cameroonian Government officials, local leaders, community members, Ambassador Hoza (U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon), and Dirck Byler (Chief of the Africa Branch for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) gather in Mbam et Djerem National Park to celebrate World Pangolin Day. Credit: Camille Nkoa Affana / MENTOR-POP
Cameroonian Government officials, local leaders, community members, Ambassador Hoza (U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon), and
Dirck Byler (Chief of the Africa Branch for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) gather in Mbam et Djerem National Park to celebrate
World Pangolin Day.
Credit: Camille Nkoa Affana / MENTOR-POP

MENTOR-POP Fellows spearheaded what is believed to be the first wildlife-focused social media campaign targeting a broad audience in Cameroon and across the region.

The campaign reached more than 154,000 people and led to high engagement among audiences, with more than 4,600 reactions, comments, shares, and retweets on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to the active participation of the U.S. Embassies in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ghana, and to several partner organizations, the campaign was successful in reaching a broad audience in different countries in the region.

The Congo Basin Forest Partnership created a new webpage to help disseminate the information. Click on the image below to learn more!


Mbam et Djerem National Park (MDNP) is home to three species of pangolin and is considered an area of concern for their conservation in Cameroon. The World Pangolin Day activities at MDNP, organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with support from the U.S. Embassy to Cameroon and MENTOR-POP, helped raise awareness that pangolins need protection, instilled pride among local communities in their National Park, and motivated people to protect pangolins.

The greatest spokesperson for pangolins at these festivities was the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, His Excellency M. Michael Hoza, who made a tremendous impact on everyone that he reached, ranging from government officials and tribal chiefs to local inhabitants and school children. Speaking with children from three local schools, the Ambassador emphasized the need for the students to know what pangolins are and understand the threats they face, so that they could play an active role in protecting them. Speaking in the village and with government officials, he called for all local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government authorities, Lamidos (local chiefs), and community members to protect these unique and distinctive species. In conversations with cattle herders, the Ambassador emphasized the importance of the role they can play in raising awareness when they encounter pangolin poachers and traffickers during their movements with cattle on the rangeland.



Visitors posing with MENTOR-POP's educational materials. Credit: Linh Nguyen Ngoc Bao / MENTOR-POP

 
Above: Ambassador Hoza raising awareness with the Lamido of Tibati and community members on the importance of pangolin
conservation and Mbam et Djerem National Park. Credit: Dirck Byler / USFWS. Below, left: Ambassador Hoza writes a strong
personal message about pangolin protection on an awareness-raising poster. Below, right: Pangolin conservation poster
by local artist, commissioned by MENTOR-POP. Credit: Camille Nkoa Affana / MENTOR-POP


But the World Pangolin Day festivities were not all about speeches and conversations. School children participated in a variety of activities including a pangolin quiz, coloring and dancing competitions and a football (soccer) game, with the “black-bellied pangolin” team from the Mbakao Primary School pitted against the ”white-bellied pangolin” team from the Djaouro Kombo Primary School. The game was action-packed with excellent technical displays from the kids. After an exciting and intense penalty shootout, the “black-bellied pangolin” team won the game. Beautiful songs about pangolin conservation that the students had composed in English, French, and Baya (one of the local languages) demonstrated that the students embraced what they had learned about pangolins.

MENTOR-POP Fellow being interviewed about World Pangolin Day at the PROMOTE event. Credit: Euphemia Fossab / MENTOR-POP Above, left: Young footballers (soccer players) from Djaouro Kombo School (white-bellied pangolin team) and (above, right) Mbakaou Public School (black-bellied pangolin team).
Left: After the boat race with local fishermen.

Credit: Camille Nkoa Affana. MENTOR-POP







One of the most encouraging things about the festivities was not only to see that the school children were excited about pangolin conservation, but also that there was a lot of enthusiasm among government representatives and local chiefs. This emphasized the point that we were aiming to make: that 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, but we should all work together to ensure that pangolins are protected and have a future in the wild. World Pangolin Day presented an opportunity to showcase the determination of MENTOR-POP Fellows, WCS, Cameroon’s government, and the international community to fight against the illegal wildlife trade.


Confiscated poaching/hunting tools and pangolin scales by Cameroon's Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF)
and the Wildlife Conservation Society in Mbakaou. Credit: Camille Nkoa Affana / MENTOR-POP

As I joked with the U.S. Ambassador during my presentation, at last year’s World Pangolin Day, MENTOR-POP Fellows carried one small banner as we led some 50 people for a march we organized in the streets of Yaoundé. By contrast, this year we displayed four big banners as thousands of people in Yaoundé and around MBDP, including government officials, hundreds of community members, school children, and the U.S. Ambassador and Embassy staff joined the fight. Pangolins are getting more attention, and MENTOR-POP is proud to continue to raise awareness on pangolins in Central Africa. Hopefully, this will lead to increased attention and protection which will give these animals a chance to bounce back from near-extinction.

 

 

 

Left: MENTOR-POP Fellow Camille exposing the threats pangolins face and the role the Lamido (local chief) can play. Credit: Francis Tarla / MENTOR-POP

Esua Etogekwe Fossung. Credit: Nancy Gelman / USFWS

Prior to joining MENTOR-POP, Camille Nkoa Affana worked as a Junior Auditor for SIC Cacaos, a subsidiary of Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products. Camille also worked for a palm oil company and the Union Bank of Cameroon. Camille holds an MBA in Management from the International School of Management in Paris, France and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. Camille also completed a professional development seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

Photo Credit: Nancy Gelman / USFWS