The United Nations Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took a radical step and banned all the commercial trade arrangements that include Pangolins along with African Grey parrots which are among the unique Uganda Safari products.
The Pangolins also locally known as Olugave in Luganda dialect are known to thrive more in the wild other than captivity and listed as Vulnerable on the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Unfortunately, it seems the precious trade world over is putting them at the risk of extinction. In Uganda, a range of people have been arrested attempting to smuggle Pangolins across borders. In April 2016, four (4) traffickers were arrested in the District of Kitgum in possession of Pangolins while a couple had earlier been arrested in Nwoya District in possession of 25Kg of Pangolin Scales. These two areas are close to the Uganda tour destination of Murchison Falls National Park.
According to the Julius Odeke-Onyango – the Head of media relations at Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN), the Pangolin scales are on high demand on the World Black Market and a Kilogram can go up to $3000 which is about 10 million Uganda Shillings. Northern Uganda features a suitable breeding ground for Pangolins and due to high poverty levels in the region, the people are easy to fall prey of such precious trade deals albeit illegal.
However, the locals also many times benefit less from these pangolin scales as they give them away to middle men at a relatively lower price of about $50 and then the middle men reap big if they are successful with smuggling. The common market destination for these Pangolin Scales is Asia and in particular Vietnam and China where an estimate of 10,000 Pangolins are trafficked illegally.
At the point of attack, the Pangolin would coil itself to the shape of a ball in protection of its underside that is soft which gives the traffickers an opportunity to throw it to the boiling water saucepans to extract scales. These scales are utilised for medicine and are believed to act as aphrodisiacs, heal cancer, rheumatism and relieve asthma. The meat of Pangolin is also a delicacy and due to their drastic decline in Asia, East Africa is considered a fresh hunting ground – something that is truly threatening these species and their long term exploration by travelers on safaris to Uganda East Africa.
In a bid to save the Pangolins, the CITES has extended protection by uplifting them to Appendix 1 which means that their trade is banned and can only be transported if it is for purposes other than commercial. In Uganda, the Uganda Wildlife Authority has undertaken various initiatives including; extensive sensitization that has prompted CITES to move the Pangolins to Appendix 1, recruiting its own prosecutors that specialize in wildlife crimes, advocating for increased fines in relation to the items trafficked and eventually supporting the local communities surrounding the protected areas to build self sustaining projects and refrain from poaching. If these measures are enforced, the future of pangolins seems bright and the Safaris in Uganda Africa.