“Since I started working with Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, I feel like the animals are a part of me,” Deh Jr told CNN. “So every time I see someone hurting (an) animal, I feel like they’re hurting me personally.”
Deh Jr joined the sanctuary when it opened five years ago and says he has cared for more than 70 pangolins, most of whom were brought here by the Liberia Forestry Development Authority after being confiscated, rendered or orphaned as a result of the bushmeat trade. .
Many people also live in forested areas. In Liberia, there is a long history of bushmeat consumption, from primates to civets (a cat-like mammal), and the pangolin is considered a delicacy. Deh Jr grew up eating the animal, which he is ashamed of today. “As a child living with your parents, you have no choice, because you cannot feed yourself,” he explains. “So even if you don’t want to eat bushmeat, you just have to.”
An international trade
But in recent years, another threat to local pangolins has emerged. Susan Wiper, director of the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, says some people kill the animal to meet demand from China and Vietnam, where its scales are used in traditional medicine.
Their scaly armor protects them from almost all predators except one. “Pangolins have no natural enemies except humans,” says Deh Jr. “If they get scared, they roll into a ball and no other animal can move between the scales. ) also makes it easier for humans to just pick it up and do what we want to do with it.”
Nevertheless, she remains hopeful that things will change. She says the Liberian Forestry Development Authority is playing an increasingly active role in confiscating protected species that have been taken from the wild.
Over the past four years, Wiper says the sanctuary has hosted nearly 600 animals, from pangolins to dwarf crocodiles, monkeys and more. She says the main goal is to rehabilitate and bring as much Liberian wildlife back into the forest as possible.
For Deh Jr, there are few greater rewards than this. “Putting it back into the wild, you feel really proud,” he says. “You feel like you’re moving forward because you’re really saving small animals.”
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