Oryem Vincent was on 14th October 15, 2015 arrested with four dead mature Pangolins and is currently detained at Gulu central police station pending prosecution.
His accomplice Alex Billy Okwir escaped and he is on police’s wanted list.
The Natural Resource Conservation Network (NRCN) wildlife law enforcement team told the investigator that Oryem and Okwir are both residents of Peche division, Gulu municipality, Gulu district North of Uganda.
Pangolins are small squirrel-size animals which have big scales that are as hard as ivory or rhino horn. Pangolin scales are hunted aggressively in Uganda and in neighboring countries over time.
A mature Pangolin can weigh between 15-20kgs and each Kilogram of pangolin scales costs over 1000US dollars on the international market.
Falling into trap:
Oryem was approached by informer about a possible transaction which was immediately arranged leading him into the hands of the enforcers.
“According to our intelligence information the vice has been moving on for decades that has led to the killing of thousands of Pangolins in the area, the same occurrence of the same character happened in June this year in the same area trapping nine people with over 80kgs of Pangolin scales by NRCN team and police in Gulu town.” Laban Muuhindo of NRCN told the investigator
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the four Asian species are listed as critically endangered.
Insatiable demand for these insectivorous mammals from East and Southeast Asia (particularly from China and Vietnam) has been the primary factor leading to the illegal trade of pangolin species and now appears to be shifting to Asian species in the wake of Africa’s dwindling populations.
Delicacy and Cure:
The flesh of adults and babies is considered a delicacy amongst consumers, while the animals’ scales are used as an ingredient in superstition-steeped traditional Chinese medicine.
Such pangolin concoctions serve as a ‘cure or remedy’ for certain ailments like swelling, improving liver function, promoting weight loss, stimulating blood circulation, enhancing lactation in breast-feeding women, and have even fallaciously been claimed to cure cancer.
None of the medicinal claims made about the critters and their body parts have been backed by science and in fact, their scales are primarily composed of keratin the same protein that makes up rhino horns and human hair and nails.
As peer-reviewed lab studies have found rhino horn to be void of medicinal properties, one can assume the same holds truth for the pangolin’s keratinous scales.
In 2011 alone, estimated 41,000-60,000 pangolins are believed to have been removed from the wild for these purposes.