AJE: The emergence of a commercial trade in pangolins from Gabon
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Recent seizures of illegally held wildlife indicate a mounting global trade in pangolins involving all eight species. Seizures of illegally traded African pangolins are increasing as wild populations of Asian species decline. We investigated trade in pangolins and law enforcement efforts in Gabon; a country likely to have intact wild populations of three of the four species of African pangolin.
We compared village sales and trade chains between 2002-2003 and 2014. Hunters reported pangolins to be the most frequently requested species in 2014, and the value of pangolins had increased at every point along their trade chain. In Libreville, giant pangolin prices increased 211% and arboreal pangolin prices 73% whilst inflation rose only 4.6% over the same period. We documented a low rate of interception of illegally traded pangolins despite increased law enforcement. Surveys of potential export routes detected exports across forest borders, in conjunction with ivory, but not through public transport routes.
We conclude that whilst there is clear potential and likelihood that a wild pangolin export trade is emerging from Gabon, traditional bushmeat trade chains may not be the primary supply route. We recommend adjusting conservation policies and actions to impede further development of illegal trade within and from Gabon.
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