Ethnomedicinal use of African pangolins by traditional medical practitioners in Sierra Leone

Type Journal Article - Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine
Title Ethnomedicinal use of African pangolins by traditional medical practitioners in Sierra Leone
Volume 10
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Pangolins (Manidae) have long been used for traditional medicinal purposes in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. However, very little is known about the extent of this use, the body parts that are used and the ailments these practices are attempting to cure or alleviate. Pangolin body parts are used extensively and frequently by traditional medical practitioners in Sierra Leone.

A total of 63 traditional medical practitioners consented and were interviewed using semi-structured questionnaires on the traditional medicinal use of pangolin body parts. The use value, informant agreement ratio and use agreement value for each pangolin part was calculated to ascertain the most sought after body part, the level of knowledge dissemination among traditional medical practitioners about body parts and the most culturally significant body part.

It was found that 22 pangolin parts are used to treat various ailments and conditions under 17 international categories of diseases. The highest use value was recorded for scales while eyes had the highest level of consensus among the traditional medical practitioners. The highest use value and informant agreement ratio for scales were recorded for spiritual ailments. Scales were the most culturally significant body part according to the use agreement value.

This study indicates a high importance value for pangolins as part of these communities’ spiritual, cultural and medicinal beliefs. However, the numbers of individuals harvested from the wild remains unknown and unregulated even though pangolins have been listed under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, 1972, of Sierra Leone, which prohibits any person from hunting or being in possession of pangolins. It is likely that this unregulated harvesting and poaching of this threatened species, for medicinal purposes, is unsustainable and there is an urgent need to determine pangolin population abundance within this region to ensure their sustainable harvesting for cultural use and conservation.

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