Gathering the Evidence for Action: Ghana's Pangolin Trade


Presenter: Kofi Amponsah-Mensah, Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana

Co-authors: James McNamara, Breakthrough Institute; Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana


Pangolins are recognised as the world’s most trafficked mammal. Increasingly African pangolins are being traded for supply to Asian markets. The forests of Ghana are home to three of Africa's four species of pangolins. With a long history of wildlife use and local bushmeat trade, Ghana likely plays an important role in the international trade passing through neighbouring West African States. Recently, Malaysian customs officials seized 400 kg of pangolin scales, worth US$ 1.2 million, that had originated from Ghana.

The scales and bones of pangolins are prized for medicinal uses locally and internationally. Despite mounting evidence that both the local and international trade are putting catastrophic pressure on the species, little is known about the status and magnitude of the trade of African Pangolins in many parts of the continent, including Ghana. The need for Evidence for action has never been so critical. We suggest that local bushmeat markets are an important tool that can provide valuable evidence and insight to the larger international trade in pangolins.

Our current market survey estimates about 252 pangolins have been delivered to two bushmeat markets within a 9-month period, despite their status as wholly protected species. These Pangolins originated from at least 21 different locations including neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire. Using data from local bushmeat markets we aim to develop a detailed understanding of the Pangolin trade networks and supply chains, provide a genetic profile of species based on samples collected from bushmeat markets, and identify key pangolin habitats and population strongholds based on records of sources of animals delivered to the market to help identify potential trade routes. Understanding these networks at the local level is an essential precursor to understanding the flow of pangolin into international markets that are potentially much more complex and harder to delineate owing to their illegal and highly lucrative nature.



kofiKofi Amponsah-Mensah is an early career ecologist and conservationist with a PHD in Zoology from the University of Ghana. His PHD research focused on the Ecology of fruit bats and their role in zoonotic disease transmission. He has research experience in Bushmeat trade and exploitation issues, market survey techniques and has been involved in projects addressing trade dynamics and implications of bushmeat exploitation for disease transmissions. He has also been involved in research addressing human-bat interactions and disease spillover risks. Currently he is a Research Officer at the Centre for African Wetlands at the University of Ghana.

He is presently involved in a research exploring current bushmeat trade issues and market dynamics in Ghana, particularly, changes in bushmeat exploitation and trade in response to changing land use and the possible implications for species conservation and food security in Ghana.