The butcher grabbed a bag from the back of a table full of corpses – copper mice, black cane rats, five-legged crocodile eyes – at the entrance of the Lagos fish market and pulled out brown. ball the size of a grapefruit.
“Pangolin. . . they make good money, “he said of Nigerian retailers and Asian buyers who pay $ 30 each – more than a third of the minimum wage – for high-risk animals whose scales are respected in some traditional medicine.
The meat seller, who did not want to be named, is a global pangolin retailer who is said to earn hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Experts warn that the illicit trade is booming in Nigeria, which in recent years has become a major smuggler market in Africa.
“Because of the high level of corruption, because our borders are very strict, because our laws are not strong enough and because we are rich in poverty and people want something that will put food on the table, Nigeria has become a place to go,” said Prof Olajumoke Morenikeji, Pangolin chief. Conservation Guild at the University of Ibadan in the country.
The massacre of so many captives this year has clearly shown Nigeria’s huge role in trade. In July, authorities seized 7 tons of pangolin shells and ivory over 464g worth $ 54m from a house in Lagos. In September, authorities seized more tons of shells in the city.
The Wildlife Justice Commission, whose intelligence service initiated the terrorist attacks, said the ships were connected to a global network operating in Nigeria and central Africa that is responsible for half of all illegal poolin and ivory worldwide.
Pangolin, a gentle little animal that resembles a well-armed animal, has been compared to smuggling cats as the world’s best-selling animal, on top of African rhinos and elephants, tigers and abalones.
Following the terrorist attacks and mass extermination of people in eastern and southern Africa over the past few decades, terrorist groups that smuggle large quantities of pangolin to China have turned to Nigeria.
“There is no real research strategy focused on this,” said Julian Rademeyer, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
Although the sale of pangolins is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – he signs with 183 countries, including Nigeria and China – the World Wildlife Foundation estimates that approximately 200,000 were killed in 2019 alone. The UK-based Traffic Agency, Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, estimates that about 20m of pangolins and parts of it are sold annually.
Eight species of pangolin found throughout Africa and Asia are protected, and two have been identified as being at high risk. Rising prices make hunters more likely to hunt in low-income countries.
“What we need is to provide an alternative source of livelihood for these people so that they can feed their families, so that they can live well without killing endangered species,” Morenikeji said. “African governments need to take action against the poverty we have here.”
Following the spread of Covid-19, Chinese authorities last year moved its pangolin to a much higher level and protected its use of traditional medicine.
The idea was made in the context of a growing number of so-called wet markets in the country, where live animals are slaughtered for sale and suspected role-players in transmitting the virus to humans.
But even China has enacted anti-trafficking laws, which promote wildlife, says cracks still exist and its demands are strong. A 2017 report by the Chinese government found that wildlife trade registered 1m people and was worth more than $ 74bn.
They are Asian pangolins “on the road to destruction”, according to Traffic, trade has moved to Africa. Although some animals are caught in Nigeria, much of the trade comes from poachers on the borders of Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries.
Scales and ivory are packed into shipping boxes that are usually labeled as wooden or shipped to Asian countries including Vietnam, where the sellers sell them to Chinese buyers. A Nigerian hunter can sell one pangolin to a butcher for 4,000 naira ($ 10), while a kilogram scale costs more than $ 1,000 in China.
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An official arrested recently in Nigeria complained that one of the main reasons why Nigerian authorities were reluctant to take action against human trafficking was “because [the illicit trade] it usually also affects the supplier ”. The Nigerian customer service has not responded to a request for comment.
Rademeyer said the recent arrests in Nigeria were encouraging. “But the seizure should not be an opportunity for customs officials to hold a press conference. . . as is often the case, or they have followed this and used it as evidence in the trial and investigation that is taking place on the internet. “