As Malawi prepares for the commemoration of World Pangolin Day on 20 February, Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) has called on the general public to join hands with the department in the protection of Pangolins in the country.
Pangolins are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales and they use those scales to protect themselves from predators in the wild.
Speaking during a virtual meeting on Tuesday, DNPW Director Brighton Kumchedwa said that Pangolins are the most traded animals and related arrests more than tripled between 2019 and 2020, a reflection of both improved law enforcement and an increase in trafficking activity.
Kumchedwa added that many cases were cases completed in 2020, and 95% resulted in a custodial conviction of between 1.5 and 10 years.
“The majority of those arrested by the authorities to date are low-level traders who are generally on low income. They often work alongside more criminally experienced intermediary ‘middlemem’ who in turn sell on foreign nationals,” he explained.
In his presentation, he said Malawi is also renowned as South Africa’s principal transit hub for wildlife traffickers and that transnational trafficking syndicates operating within Malawi’s borders are also known to deal in Pangolin products.
The majority of Pangolins are trafficked from Mozambique, where land clearance from logging operations destroys pangolin habitats and exposes their burrows, and inroads into previously untouched areas facilitates hunters access to new Pangolins population.
Communities in these areas are increasingly aware of the growing regional market for Pangolin meat and scales and buyers are readily available.