Nigeria Takes Historic Step to Combat Wildlife Crime by Destroying 4 Tonnes of Pangolin Scales and Animal Skins
Nigeria destroys seized wildlife products like pangolin scales to send a clear message that it will not tolerate wildlife trafficking.
Abuja, Nigeria – 16th October, 2023 Nigeria has publicly destroyed a substantial quantity of seized wildlife products including pangolin scales alongside leopard, python and crocodile skins for the first time in its history, marking a significant step towards combating wildlife trafficking and protecting the nation's biodiversity.
The incineration event took place in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, with representatives from various government agencies, local and international environmental NGOs, and wildlife conservation experts in attendance. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) in collaboration with the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) Foundation, with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), methodically reduced a total of 3914.08 kilograms of seized pangolin scales and 110 kilograms of skins from protected species including leopard, python and crocodile to ashes.
Images from the incineration site in Abuja, Nigeria.
“This is a critical moment in the battle to protect our planet's precious biodiversity. These seized items represent the past we leave behind, but the destruction signifies the future we are determined to build for our planet. The destruction of these seized items is a powerful statement of our resolve to protect our environment, conserve our wildlife, and combat the illegal trade that drives species to the brink of extinction,” said Dr. Iziaq Adekunle Salako, Honourable Minister of State for Environment.
“The illegal wildlife trade is a serious threat to our natural heritage and global biodiversity. Nigeria is committed to playing its part in addressing this crisis. By destroying these pangolin scales alongside leopard, python and crocodile skins, we send a strong message that illegal wildlife trafficking will not be tolerated, and we will take every measure necessary to protect our unique ecosystems and endangered species,” said Professor Aliyu Jauro, the Director General/ Chief Executive Officer of NESREA.
Pangolins are among the most trafficked mammals in the world, partly because their scales are in great demand for use in traditional medicine in Asia, where their meat is also considered a delicacy. As pangolin populations in Asia have declined, shipments from Africa have greatly increased to meet soaring demand.
Nigeria has emerged as a source and major transit hub for the trafficking of pangolin scales to Asia. According to the Netherlands-based Wildlife Justice Commission, 55 percent of pangolin scale seizures worldwide between 2016 and 2019 were linked to Nigeria. By extension, a team of conservationists led by the University of Cambridge recently examined pangolin product seizures connected to Nigeria and discovered that shipments of pangolin products that were seized and reported by law enforcement officials between 2010 and September 2021 totaled 190, 407 kg, which came from at least 800,000 to as many as a million dead pangolins.
“Nigeria's decision to incinerate seized pangolin scales and other skins is a shining example of a nation taking proactive measures to protect its natural heritage and contribute to the global fight against wildlife crime,” said Ruth Musgrave, Director of Stockpile Management at the EPI Foundation.
Nigerian authorities recognize the urgency of protecting this species and have taken significant steps to address the trafficking of pangolins through its borders, including adopting its first National Strategy to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime. Subsequently, the government has also established the Wildlife Law Enforcement Task Force (WLETF) of which NESREA is the operational lead, working closely with the Federal Ministry of Environment to address wildlife crime in the country.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of seizures of pangolin scales and prosecution of offenders in Nigeria. The Nigeria Customs Service said that it seized 1,613 tonnes of pangolin scales in 2022 alone and detained 14 people. In May 2023, two individuals were given a four-year prison sentence for conspiring to possess 839.4 kg of pangolin scales and 145 kg of elephant tusks illegally and a clearing agent was sentenced to a six-month prison term in June for illegally possessing a container full of pangolin scales, elephant ivory, tusks, and bones. In July, a Federal High Court in Lagos sentenced four foreigners to six years in prison for wildlife trafficking.
The Nigerian Government, also through NESREA, uses the Endangered Species (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Act 2016 and the National Environmental (Protection of Endangered Species in International Trade) Regulations 2011 to tackle wildlife crime.
“Credit to Nigeria for taking this step towards upping its game by publicly destroying these seized products. Now Nigeria urgently needs to update its outdated wildlife laws by introducing and passing the new wildlife legislation introduced last session, but delayed due to the elections. This would be the next step in a comprehensive response to reduce wildlife crime,” said Peter Knights OBE, Founder and CEO of Wild Africa Fund.
Environmental organizations and wildlife advocates have praised Nigeria's actions, hailing them as a positive step toward curbing the illegal wildlife trade. They have called for continued cooperation between government agencies, civil society, and international partners to strengthen enforcement efforts and raise awareness about the importance of preserving biodiversity.
For more information or media inquiries, please contact:
Amaka Ejiofor, Assistant Director Press, NESREA. T: +2348037045093
Festus Iyorah, Nigeria Representative, Wild Africa Fund. T: +234 816 041 2825
Barnaby Phillips, Director of Communications, EPI Foundation.
NESREA has the responsibility for enforcing all environmental Laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria and also to prohibit processes and the use of equipment or technology that undermine environmental quality and to enforce compliance with provision of international agreements, protocols, conventions and treaties to which Nigeria is signatory.
About Elephant Protection Initiative Foundation
The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) is an alliance of 23 African countries determined to conserve their elephants whilst meeting the aspirations of their people, and the EPI Foundation serves as its secretariat. EPI countries are home to most of Africa’s remaining elephants. They are committed to closing domestic ivory markets, and maintaining the 1989 international ban on the ivory trade. Nigeria joined the EPI in 2018. More information on the EPI can be found at www.elephantprotectioninitiative.org or follow us on social media @EPIAfrica
About Wild Africa Fund
Wild Africa Fund aims to be Africa’s most effective conservation communicator, inspiring the public support and political will to protect Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces forever. They believe people and wildlife can only survive and thrive together, so they are popularizing conservation with a much broader audience than has previously been engaged. By amplifying the voices of African opinion leaders from every field through a powerful network of media partners and diverse programming, they seek to promote domestic wildlife tourism, local conservation projects and the passage and enforcement of effective conservation laws. Through their communications and direct support, they also aim to deliver permanent reductions in wildlife crime, the demand for illegal bushmeat, human/wildlife conflict and habitat loss. More information on Wild Africa Fund can be found at www.wildafricafund.org or on social media @wildafricafund.