Community to protect pangolin

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Traditional leaders and village elders in the communal lands of the Manicaland province in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe are joining forces with Zimparks, law enforcement agencies and various wildlife conservation initiatives to create educational campaigns that will help protect the critically endangered pangolin.

The indigenous Ndau people of Maronga village in remote Chipinge have always protected and revered the pangolin as a sacred animal.

They believe the animal’s existence brings good fortune, rain, good harvests and harmony within
the communities.

During a customary traditional gathering earlier this year, headman Mungani Timbura of the Maronga area urged the locals to stay on the right side of the law. He asked them to cooperate with rangers and the police in clamping down on pangolin poaching in the area.

“If anyone is caught participating in illegal trade, poaching or even possession of the pangolin, it is the moral duty of the community to report them,” Timbura says. “It is a shame that in this rich ancestral land of Maronga some of our people are now hunting the pangolin,” he adds. “They forget that it is beneficial to protect the pangolin at community level. That is the way it has always been since our forefathers settled
on this land.”

Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo applauds the Chipinge communities, acknowledging the efforts of the traditional leaders and conservation initiatives.

“We are working closely with traditional leaders as the custodians of wildlife to spread the word of anti-poaching in the educational campaigns,” Farawo says.

Neville Gengezha, a member of the Elephant count community in Zimbabwe who has been lobbying for wildlife conservation since 2010, says it is important that anti-poaching campaigns cascade to community level.

“Conservation societies cannot curb the crimes against wildlife on their own,” Gengezha says. “By involving everyone in protecting wildlife, it makes it difficult for poachers to infiltrate the communities. Locals have attached the pangolin to their cultural heritage and traditional beliefs.

“The crime lords involved in the trafficking of pangolins are said to hire scouts who infiltrate villages and recruit poachers to supply them with live pangolins. Prices range from $5 000–$10 000, depending on the size,” he adds.

The black market is primarily driven by a high demand in Asia for the scales, which some mistakenly believe have medicinal properties. In China and Vietnam pangolins are regarded as a delicacy and also an aphrodisiac.

According to Zimbabwe Republic Police statistics, 84 arrests linked to pangolin poaching and possession without permits have been made since 2015. Of those, 47 people were convicted and sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison.

Written by Richard Kawazi

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