The P in wildlife trafficking

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Are you still wondering how I clearly don’t know English?

Well, let me get to the point.

The African Grey parrot and pangolins have become the most trafficked animals globally (African Grey Parrot is the most trafficked bird while the pangolin is the most trafficked mammal). The African Grey Parrot has two subspecies; the Congo African Grey Parrot and the Timneh African Grey parrot. The African Grey Parrot species originate in the lowlands of western and central Africa from northern Angola to Guinea. The Congo African Grey (CAG) and the Timneh African Grey (TAG) are located in different regions of Africa. In Kenya, they call Kakamega Forest their home.

The African Grey Parrot has long been known as a pet because of their ability to mimic speech. However, this is leading to the species decline and near extinction. Studies have shown there could be more African Grey parrots in people’s homes than there are in the wild. You may think this is a great way to save the species but you are wrong.

Wildlife Trafficking

African Grey Parrot

African Grey parrot ‘owners’ are in most cases, not Africans or even live where this parrot calls home. African Grey parrot owners may not be aware of the biological loophole they have created by removing that particular species from the habitat. African Grey parrot owners will not even be bothered by the decline of the species in the wild as long as the one in their home is well fed and safe. I may sound rude, but think of it this way, once you remove a wild species from the environment and try to domestic it do you think it is right?

What if we all wanted a beautiful bird to cage in our houses and just look at it, feed it and be amazed by its intelligence while thinking you have such an amazing pet? Well, that’s why we have dogs and cats. Isn’t it? I would like to keep a bear as a pet but have you seen these creatures in the wild? I am content with a teddy bear.

Then we have pangolins. If you have seen a pangolin, in the wild, then you must be lucky. Let me reframe it. Have you seen this animal pictured below?

Wildlife Trafficking

White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) © Tim Wacher / ZSL

Lucky you.

Pangolins are not only trafficked as pets but they are poached for their meat, which is eaten as a luxury dish in parts of their range, and their scales which are used in Traditional Asian Medicine. Just this month, pangolin scales were found in Uganda together with ivory. Just google pangolin scales in the news section. Go ahead right now. All you will see is pangolin scales, pangolin scales found in a specific country. It is such a shame that we cannot just have positive news about this species. We are not even discussing the species itself but what it has which is considered of value to some people. Its scales. For such a species, I believe if it does become extinct, many people will be surprised it even existed.

Illegal Wildlife Trade is being driven by traffickers who are finding it easier to trade in these two species which can be easily concealed and transported without notice. It is easier to drug a bird to sleep than carrying pieces of ivory around. According to the 2016 & 2017, Court monitoring report by WildlifeDirect Kenya remains listed as a country of primary concern by CITES and is attributed as a source or transit country in the trafficking of elephant ivory, rhino horn and pangolin scales.

It is also easier for people looking for money in all manner of ways to be persuaded to look for the species to sell. The same we see elephant and rhino poachers is the same way we should see those who trade in pangolins and the African grey parrot. We should not tolerate biodiversity killers in any way. The African grey parrot and the pangolin subspecies have been listed as endangered by the IUCN. This is only one step we can ensure that these two species Thrive.

Communities need to be empowered to protect these species. If locals can find these species which are often not so easy to track in the wild, these people are superb trackers who even know the movement of this species. They can be encouraged to even learn names of trees and even the food they feed on. This is incredible knowledge which can help protect them through bird watching, tourism and research.

These species’ have entered my bucket list of species I need to see in my lifetime in their natural habitat. If there is a way I can be able to ensure the species’ live for generations to come, then I will jump onto the guard.

Featured image: African Grey Parrot © Bart Wursten / Flickr

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to vicki@nyikasilika.org or vickiwangui26@gmail.com.

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