Huge Cache Of Pangolin Scales Seized In China

pangolin scales

The authorities in China have seized more than 3000 kilograms of pangolin scales in the city of Shanghai in what is thought to be the biggest case of smuggling of the animal’s body parts. It is estimated that between 5,000 to 7,000 pangolins may have been slaughtered in order to produce such a large amount of scales. Many experts describe the pangolin as being the most trafficked animal in the world. The intensity of poaching and the robust trade in their body parts has pushed the animal towards the brink of extinction.

Trade in pangolins is heavily restricted

At a recent CITES conference which is the largest convention on wildlife trade, delegates voted heavily to restrict trade in the animal. There are eight different species of pangolin and all of them have been included as part of CITES appendix 1 which does provide some additional level of protection by allowing trade only in very exceptional circumstances. However, as the seizure in China indicates, there is still plenty to do to help pangolins in the fight against trafficking.

Why pangolins are trafficked

The eight species of pangolin live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, they feed on ants and termites which they consume using their extremely long and adhesive tongue. Over the last few years many charities have expressed concern for the pangolin as the number of animals being poached and illegally traded has risen. According to a recent study, scientists estimated that between 21,000 kilograms of scales and 23,109 pangolins were trafficked between January 2008 and March 2016. That would seem to suggest that during that period, 66,000 pangolins were killed.

Hunted for meat and ‘medicinal’ qualities

In Africa the species is often hunted for bushmeat and is also used in traditional African medicine, However, the real threat comes from Asia, in particular China and Vietnam where their meat is considered a delicacy and its consumption is believed to deliver health benefits such as nourishing the kidneys. Pangolin scales are also used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine for treatments ranging to help women lactate, to curing cancer and psoriasis.

China and Vietnam need to step up

Due to the intense demand from Asia, African pangolins are increasingly being transported there and sold. In the case of the latest seizure, the pangolin scales had been packed in bags and hidden in a timber consignment originating from Africa. Despite the fact that the will exists to protect the species, it is unlikely the situation will change without robust efforts by the governments of China and Vietnam to implement the law and ensure traffickers face justice.

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