A notorious pangolin trader has been arrested by the Nkawkaw Police Command in the Eastern Region of Ghana for selling the endangered species on the Accra-Kumasi Highway.

He was caught selling the tree pangolin which is one of the eight surviving species of pangolins, and is native to equatorial Africa. Also known as the white-bellied pangolin or three-cusped pangolin, it is the most common of the African forest pangolins.

The Accra-Kumasi Highway is one of the hotspots for trade in pangolins in Ghana and the trader who is in the custody of the Police has on various occasions escaped arrest for his illicit act. Luck however eluded him over the weekend when he was caught red handed for attempting to sell the tree pangolin and was handed over to the Police who are in the process of putting him before court.

Per the Wildlife Conservation Regulation 1971 of Ghana, pangolins are completely protected and the hunting, capturing or destroying of any of their species is absolutely prohibited at all times. Therefore, any person who contravenes any provision of the regulations shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine or imprisonment or to both.

Also, for International Regulation in 2016, pangolins gained the highest levels of protection under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) with the decision to uplift all 8 species to Appendix I, which means International trade in pangolins for commercial purposes is prohibited by law.

How the notorious trader was busted

Narrating how the arrest was made, the Deputy National Director of A Rocha Ghana, Daryl Bossu, explained that, he was travelling on the Accra-Kumasi Highway over the weekend when he came across the trader selling two pangolins about 15 minutes’ drive from the Nkwakaw junction.

“From my many trips on the highway, I already identified the man as a notorious trader in pangolins and on a previous occasion when the same person was confronted selling pangolins, he promised not to sell again after he had been educated of its protected nature”, he said.

“Seeing him by the road side again, I subsequently reached out to the nearest Forestry Commission Check Point, where two Officers were detailed to confiscate the pangolins. When we got there, the trader had already sold one of the pangolins and was in the process of selling this one to a traveler in a private car” he further said.

According to Bossu, when he was confronted by the Officers to hand over the animal, he proved difficult leading to his arrest and was immediately handed over to the Nkwakaw Central Police Station.

Demand for pangolins

Despite the ban, there is high demand for Pangolins in Ghana, with the meat being patronised by people of all walks of life, mostly the elder generation and the Chinese. The Chinese buyers in particular have organised links with some of the traders, who only capture, store and sell to the Chinese at higher prices. Most Ghanaians however patronise pangolins for bushmeat as it is considered a delicacy.

According to the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana, the population of Pangolins in Ghana is not known. Thus, there is still insufficient information on pangolins and the fact that hunters, bushmeat sellers and restaurants continue to sell them, their survival in the wild is at risk.

Good News

According to Bossu, the rescued pangolin was released into the wild on Monday evening in the Atewa forest reserve.

“That has been the strategy. Anytime we rescue them, we release them into the Atewa Forest to give them a safe space to live”, he added.

By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda