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

Maxwell K Boakye, Darren W Pietersen, Antoinette Kotze, Desire Dalton, Raymond Jansen

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Background: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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
Conclusion: 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Issue number76
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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