Protecting pangolins from poaching in the Congo

Current initiative

Published October 2018

A photo of a Giant pangolin

Giant pangolin. Credit: Nasser Halaweh

Around the periphery of South Salonga Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a small, local NGO - Synergie Rurale Action Paysanne - and people from local communities have devised and implemented strategies to protect pangolins (and elephants) from poachers and IWT. These strategies educate and actively engage local people in anti-poaching activities, and it is having the desired result - poaching has been reduced and people are committed to protecting these animals.

Lead

Location

The initiative focuses on the periphery of the South Salonga Park, in the outskirts of the Salonga-Lukenie-Sankuru landscape in the chiefdom of Batere, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is on the edge of the equatorial forest at the boundary between the territory of Kutu and Oshwe. This area is 600 km away from the city of Kinshasa and Brazzaville.

The ecosystems present in the area are best described as 'forest-savanna-crop mosaic', the vegetation consists of marshy primary forest along creeks and herbaceous and shrubby savannas on clay soil (Kutu Agricultural Development Plan, January 2010).

The Batere community is homogeneous and hospitable and are very proud and respectful of their traditions: they respect traditional principles and traditional leaders. They are rural, subsisting primarily from hunting and agriculture.

The initiative is undertaken in five forests with a total area between 150 and 200 km² (estimation made by chieftain's agriculture services and CARG, January 2010). The area of the whole chieftaincy is 3,260 km² and its population to be in around 71,500. Approximately 4,000 people reside in nine villages that border the project area (i.e. the five forests) and these are the direct beneficiaries of the initiative.

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected Giant Pangolin Smutsia gigantea

Products in trade

Pangolin scales and meat. Elephants for their tusks.

Scales of pangolins are used in traditional medicine and the bushmeat trade, and tusks as ivory for a variety of uses.

Products are being bought by well-organized smugglers in big cities who ship them to foreign countries, particularly Asian countries.

Overview of the problem

Poachers generally come from or are recruited by animal traffickers, from the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville, including corrupt state officials.

Poachers are involved in wildlife crime because of poverty and ignorance of the regulations.

Police are ignorant of the wildlife regulations and specifically the protection of pangolins.

The activities of park rangers/guards within Salonga Park keep poachers restricted to the peripheries of the Park where they undertake most of their illegal hunting.

The anti-IWT initiative

This project is led and managed by Mr. Claude Keboy Mov Linkey Iflankoy, coordinator of the local NGO SynergieRurale-action Paysanne (SyR-AP). Mr. Keboy is motivated to fight against illegal trade and poaching because of his passion to protect animals and concern of the gradual disappearance of species such as pangolins and excessive poaching of elephants, and to compensate for the inability of others, including government, to effectively control poaching, IWT, and conserve these species.

This initiative began in 2010 in collaboration with local community representatives, including the Traditional Leader. SyR-AP and local people have devised and implemented the following strategies to protect pangolins (and elephants) from poachers.

  1. Monitoring markets in the big cities and ports throughout the area to collect the sales data of the species of the wild fauna, and to dissuade the traders from engaging in IWT.
     
  2. Ongoing education and awareness raising activities (workshops and public seminars) targetted at the general population and State security personnel.
     
  3. Reinforce traditional principles and practices that prohibit hunting giant pangolin, which is a royal totem belonging to Traditional Leaders. We have obtained written commitments from traditional chiefs that they will help to protect these species.
     
  4. We have also recruited and transformed poachers into forest rangers and monitoring agents by providing them with paid employment.

The community is getting involved in all of the strategies described above.

We also organize regular meetings with representatives of the villages bordering the project area in order to assess the level of protection and collect data with the participation of the community.

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Paid in money community scouts
Strengthening and supporting traditional norms and sanctions against IWT

Improving education and awareness

Has the initiative made a difference?

Our monitoring indicates that our anti-poaching strategies - in relation to pangolins - are effective and efficient. Data in the annex (Report 2016, 2017 (in French)) demonstrate that illegal activity has decreased. People’s view of pangolins as valuable to the community and their commitment to protecting them has improved.

However, outside the immediate area where the initiative has been deployed, the threat of poaching remains high and is increasing.

What works and why

The initiative has been effective as it has centered on strengthening traditional customs that prohibit the hunting of the giant pangolin - local communities remain respectful of these traditions and the consequences for breaking them.

Local people have also been dissuaded from hunting pangolins through education and traditional leaders nominating members of the local community - often former poachers - to become scouts and to monitor and guard pangolin dens, which provided alternative livelihoods to people who were previously involved in illegal activity.

The buy-in and cooperation of traditional leaders has been critical for success.

Factors for success

Effective and accountable community-based natural resources management institutions

What doesn’t work and why

Four factors have hindered the efficient and effective progress and implementation of the initiative, as well as instilling doubt in local people about the importance of the conservation of wildlife and its habitat, namely:

  1. Ignorance of the regulations and non-compliance of these by state officials at the provincial and local level.
     
  2. Lack of funding for the implementation of socio-economic projects directly benefiting community development as well as projects of policy change and law enforcement by provincial and local authorities.
     
  3. The poverty that overwhelms the population.
     
  4. Lack of specific policy and strategies for the conservation of pangolins at all levels of governance.

Organisers, donors and partners

For further information contact Claude Keboy Mov Linkey Iflankoy Coordinator of the NGO and project supervisor (keboyclaude@gmail.com).