DESPITE it featuring on Zambian currency, the pangolin is little known but highly poached to the breach of extinction, which must promptly end.In recent years the trafficking of pangolins has been on the rise and it is now the most trafficked wild animal in the world. Under the Zambia Wildlife Act No. 14 of 2015, the penalty for the illegal possession of a pangolin is 5 to 10 years imprisonment.Pangolins are trafficked primarily for their scales which are erroneously believed to have medicinal qualities. However, their scales are made from keratin which is the same protein that forms human hair and finger nails and unlikely to have medicinal properties.There are currently five men are appearing in Kapiri Mposhi Magistrate Court for being in possession of four Pangolin skins valued at over K 95,000.The five include Alick Kazika, 28, Kennedy Mwamba, 39, and Webby Simushi, 50, all businessmen of Kitwe.Kutembo Kayombo, 57, a peasant farmer and Evans Mutale, 38, a businessman of Ndola and Mkushi respectively, were among the suspects involved in the case.They were jointly charged with an offence of unlawful possession of protected trophy contrary to section 130 (1) and 36 (1) of the Zambia Wildlife Authority Act No. 14 of 2015 as read with Statutory Instrument No. 42 of 2016 of the Laws of Zambia.Particulars of the offence were that the five men on 28th October 2020 in Kapiri Mposhi jointly and whilst acting together did possess protected trophies namely four skins of Pangolin collectively weighing 2.3 Kilogrammes with a total market value of K 95,618.40.All the accused have pleaded not guilty to the offence.The men were arrested by Zambia Wildlife Authority Officers on October 28th, 2020 in Kapiri Mposhi who posed as buyers of the said Pangolin skins.The state has so far called up two witnesses in this matter who include Alfred Mwiimba, 43, a Wildlife Ranger and Friday Katombi, 38, a Wildlife Investigations Officer at the Department of Wildlife in Serenje district.Testifying before Kapiri Mposhi magistrate, Emmanuel Banda Mwiimba identified the hides as those of a protected Tree Pangolin species with an estimated market value of over K 23,000 each.State witness number two, Friday Katombi, who is the arresting officer in this matter, told the court how he re-ceived information to the effect that some men were in possession of Pangolin skins and looking for a buyer.Possessing as a prospecting buyer from Serenje Katombi called the suspects so that he could meet them in Kapiri Mposhi to conclude the transaction.He said while in Kapiri Mposhi the suspects where waylaid by Zambia Wildlife Authority Officers at a named Lodge while negotiating to sale the Pangolin skins in their possession.Several initiatives are undertaken by conservation groups to help protect Zambia’s wildlife.According to Wildlife Crime Prevention, the tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) is one of eight species of pangolins (“scaly anteaters”), and is native to equatorial Africa. Also known as the white-bellied pangolin or three-cusped pango-lin, in Zambia it is only found in North-Western province and is very rare.Wildlife Crime Prevention works alongside the Department of National Parks and Wildlife who ensure nationwide con-servation of wildlife and habitats.All pangolin species have been legally protected by an international agreement between governments in 2016 as part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), aiming to ensure the trade of the animal doesn’t threaten its survival.On September 23, the US government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Zambia’s Ministry of Tourism and Arts to improve wildlife management and combat illegal wildlife trade in Zambia. The MOU is a non-binding framework outlining mutual commitments to protect wildlife and strengthen Zambia’s wildlife management, which supports the country’s natural capital heritage, environmental integrity, and local and national economic develop-ment.The US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of State, and US Fish and Wildlife Service programmes, is helping Zambia to protect its wildlife and wild spaces.The signed MOU will accelerate US funding allocations and training opportunities, including K9 million (US$450,000) for technical assistance to Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, training opportunities for DNPW staff at the US International Law Enforcement Regional Academy in Botswana, and support to the Zambia National Commu-nity Resources Board Association to improve revenue sharing models that increases community commitment to wildlife management and maximize tax benefits for local communities and the government.Through USAID, the US government plans to invest more than K800 million (US$40 million) over the next five years for new awards in biodiversity and forest conservation.The support being rendered towards the protection of wildlife is commendable but it is important for citizens to play their part in protecting endangered species by reporting wild life related crimes to authorities.With each animal that becomes extinct the greater the threat to human existence becomes.
While it may look like easy money, illegal wildlife trade has dire consequences that go beyond the natural domains of the animals extending to the entire globe.