By Titus Kakembo
While celebrating the ninth annual World Pangolin Day Saturday February 19th 2022, nature lovers are cautioned that their survival is endangered. Fortunately, Uganda is home to all four of the African species.
“They include; the Tree/ White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspid), Giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantean),” says a UWA guide in Kidepo Valley National Park. “The others are Cape/Temminck’s Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), and the Long-tailed Black-Bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla.)”
Besides them being treasured by Olugave clan in Buganda all of them are raw materials for traditional medicine. A statue of Pangolins is the pride of that clan. They can also be seen in the Semiki Wild Game Reserve at Uganda Wildlife Education Center(UWEC.)
In Nwoya I met an elder Josephat Okello who confided that traditional belief has it that meeting a pangolin in bright daylight is a bad omen.
“The future portends no good,” asserts Okello. “To prevent a drought, floods, famine or disease like Covid-19 a Pangolin has to be caught and sacrificed to the gods.”
“Pangolin is game meat in Pakwac, Pabidi and Anaka,” confides John Otto. “Where I come from Pangolin meat is a preserve for important guests and big ceremonies. The scales are shelled off and the meat is smoked and preserved in the kitchen.”
It is hunted with the help of dogs for hours on end. Bushes are set ablaze to enable it to run out of nooks.
In my travels across Uganda, I have met people dining, worshipping, gifting and wearing Pangolin shells as part of their traditional dress.
All these were not a threat to the survival of these sophisticated creatures until there came increased collaboration between Uganda and China. Vietnam is the other market with a high demand for shells.
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority(UWA) spokesman Gessa Simplicious, the Pakwac Police arrested the Wanglei village Local Council (LCI) Michael Okumu and John Odoki, a resident of Purongo village in Nwoya district who is alleged to be a dealer.
“Besides traditional beliefs, juju practitioners and diners on wild game,” sums Gessa. “The biggest threat to Pangolins increasing illegal international trade.”