The first “World Pangolin Week” ever in Cameroon!
World Pangolin Day is celebrated every year on the third Saturday in February to raise global awareness about pangolins, the alarming threats they face and the inspiring efforts to prevent them from going extinct. There are eight species of pangolin in the world, four in Africa and four in Asia and some with very restricted distribution. Unfortunately, pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammals in the world. More than a million pangolins have been poached from the wild in the past decade to meet the demand for their meat and scales from China and Southeast Asia as well as the demand for bushmeat in Africa.
For World Pangolin Day, which became World Pangolin Week in Cameroon, the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon supported MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolin) activities at PROMOTE – a renowned international trade exhibition in Cameroon. Esua Etogekwe Fossung, one of the MENTOR-POP Fellows, shares her team’s success in bringing pangolins to Cameroonians’ attention.
MENTOR-POP Fellows with Dr. Ken Cameron of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (third from right). Credit: 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!
My team and I had a busy yet wonderful week at PROMOTE, where we displayed conservation materials about pangolins. We received hundreds of visitors, and many of them appreciated our work, telling us that they had never seen any outreach activity on wildlife like ours and that they found it very meaningful and important for the sustainability of Cameroon’s unique wildlife.
Pangolin meat is desired by many Cameroonians, especially those who were born and raised in the rural areas of the humid forest, because it is a common food for these populations. Many visitors admitted to having eaten pangolins at least once since they were born and were surprised to know that this species could face extinction if the current rate of trafficking for meat and scales remains the same.
Almost zero visitors knew that all three species of pangolins in Cameroon are now totally protected by both international and national laws. They were proud to know that Cameroon is home to three out of the four species found in Africa, further confirming that Cameroon is indeed Africa in miniature.
Two of the most frequently asked questions were “What is happening to pangolins that you should dedicate time off to come to PROMOTE to talk about it?” and “Why should these species be protected?” Many people think there are still so many pangolins in the wild and that they have many young per litter. I shared with them results from the massive seizures of pangolin scales originating from Cameroon to meet high demands from China and Southeast Asia. Not surprisingly, people began to understand that if no action is taken, their pangolins will soon go extinct and their children will no longer have a chance to see them in the wild.
Visitors posing with MENTOR-POP's educational materials. Credit: Linh Nguyen Ngoc Bao / MENTOR-POP
We were encouraged by people’s positive reactions and support for pangolin conservation after listening to our story at each encounter. They appreciated the information we provided about threats facing pangolins and the laws to protect them. Thanks to our activities, visitors told us that they will spread the word about pangolins. They also promised to use the conservation materials we provided them to encourage others not to consume and/or trade in pangolins. It made us both happy and proud to know that due to our efforts and dedication, hundreds of people from Cameroon and beyond learned about pangolins and pangolin conservation.
Children are very keen to learn about pangolins and their conservation. Credit: Linh Nguyen Ngoc Bao / MENTOR-POP
We are also thrilled that the media showed keen interest in pangolins during our “World Pangolin Week”! Three MENTOR-POP Fellows served as pangolin advocates on Cameroon’s national TV channel - CRTV – to talk about the importance of pangolin conservation in Central Africa. Some of our visitors even sent us messages via our Facebook page Pangolin Saver and showed their excitement about seeing us on TV and how our passion for pangolins touched and changed them! Receiving people’s support and seeing them change their mind-sets because of what we are doing was for me the greatest encouragement that will keep me fighting continuously for this incredible species and other wildlife.
MENTOR-POP Fellow speaking about pangolin conservation in Central Africa. Credit: CRTV
We succeeded in turning the World Pangolin Day into the first “World Pangolin Week” in Cameroon! Let’s protect our pangolins and make every single day a pangolin day!
MENTOR-POP Fellow being interviewed about World Pangolin Day at the PROMOTE event. Credit: Euphemia Fossab / MENTOR-POP
Prior to joining MENTOR-POP, Esua Etogekwe Fossung was working with international conservation organizations in Cameroon, including World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. During her work with WWF, Esua worked on a project which aimed at enhancing law enforcement to combat the poaching crisis in Cameroon. While at TRAFFIC, she contributed to the implementation of TRAFFIC Central Africa’s (TCAF) Wild animals & trade related projects and activities. Esua holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology from the University of Buea in Cameroon.
Photo credit: Nancy Gelman / USFWS