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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Pangolin Protection Strengthens, and MENTOR-POP Can’t Wait

   pangolinsPangolins (fake and adorable) at CITES. Photo by MENTOR-POP

The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was held in Johannesburg, South Africa from September 24 – October 5, 2016.  All nine Fellows and the Coordinator of MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins), an 18-month program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Zoological Society of London, were there, and they went straight to business on their agenda: ensuring that all three Central African pangolins as well as all the other pangolin species (there are eight species of pangolin in total) were uplisted to Appendix I in CITES, which provides the highest level of protection afforded by the treaty. As part of our MENTOR-POP blog series, Euphemia Ewah Fosab, one of the MENTOR-POP Fellows, offers a personal account of her experience at CoP17.

  MENTOR-POP Fellows with FWS Director Dan Ashe. MENTOR-POP Fellows with FWS Director Dan Ashe. Photo by MENTOR-POP

All nine Fellows saw our participation at the CITES CoP17 as a unique learning opportunity where we could hone our conservation skills, network and establish exciting new contacts, and – most importantly – make a difference for Central Africa’s pangolins. As soon as we arrived at CITES CoP17, we plunged into learning, networking, disseminating information, and advising as many countries as possible to vote for pangolins.

 pangolinTree pangolin, also known as African white-belllied pangolin. Photo by Tim Wacher/Zoological Society of London

Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Zoological Society of London, MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins) is developing a trans-disciplinary team of nine early-career Central African and Asian conservation practitioners with academic and field-based training and internships to champion the conservation of the three Congo Basin pangolin species. To find out more about the Service’s other MENTOR programs, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/factsheet-mentor.pdf.

And it worked! Pangolins were uplisted on September 28 to Appendix I of the CITES treaty. The most exciting part was the near-unanimous support the pangolin changes received.

MENTOR-POP has focused on pangolin conservation in Cameroon. Three of the four species of African pangolins occur in Cameroon. The country is also believed to be a major hub for pangolin trafficking from West and Central Africa. In June, for example, more than 4 tons of pangolin scales coming from Cameroon were confiscated in Hong Kong. We also have many partners aligned for pangolin conservation in Cameroon. It is the right place to test innovative methods to address national and regional pangolin bushmeat trade, and international pangolin trafficking. 

So we were thrilled by the support from the Cameroonian delegation to uplist the African pangolins. Until the very last moment, we were unsure what Cameroon’s position would be, but thanks to persistent efforts by Francis Tarla, the Coordinator of MENTOR-POP, Cameroon voted YES for pangolins, to the relief of all range states. 

The uplisting will help law enforcement officials, who until now faced confusion in distinguishing between pangolin scales of protected as opposed to non-protected species.

   pangolin meetingFellows keep working for pangolins. Photo by MENTOR-POP

But there is still so much left to be accomplished for Central Africa’s pangolins. The MENTOR-POP Fellows are working on projects to come up with appropriate methodologies to assess pangolin strongholds and populations in Cameroon, to reduce local, regional and international demand for pangolins, and finally, to ensure that existing and new legislation is properly implemented to guarantee that the trade in pangolin species ends – stay tuned for future updates! 

With the large amount of seizures recently recorded both in and aound Cameroon, Appendix I is a safer place for this harmless, scaly anteater. The MENTOR-POP Fellows look forward to better days ahead for our pangolin species, and above all, are anxious to see how the CITES outcome on pangolins plays out in our national laws. 



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