Last month the United Nations approved a ban on global trade in pangolins in a bid to nullify the impending extinction of this unique species.
Illegal trade in South Asia has now rendered the scaly mammals the most trafficked animal on the planet, with some estimates claiming that sales now account for up to 20 percent of the entire wildlife black market.
Delegates at the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to place pangolins on the convention’s “Appendix I,” which prohibits any cross-border movement in the animals or their body parts for commercial purpose.
About the Pangolin
The name pangolin comes from the Malay word “pengguling”, meaning “something that rolls up”. It is found in tropical regions throughout Africa and Asia. From one extant family, Manidae, there are eight species of pangolin still in existence worldwide, as well as several extinct species over their 80 million year evolution.
The eight species of pangolins are found on two continents:
The four species found in Africa: Black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), White-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), Giant Ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) and Temminck’s Ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii).
The four species found in Asia: Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).
Pangolins have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin; they are the only known mammals with this adaptation. They are shy nocturnal creatures that are predominantly solitary, meeting only to mate and produce a litter of one to three offspring which are raised for about two years.
Watch the video to learn more about these unique creatures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz4HXyxcess
Pangolin meat is in extremely high demand, resulting from its status as a coveted delicacy in Asian economies such as Vietnam; while the animal’s scales are used in traditional medicines.
This places the pangolin firmly at the top of the illegal animal trade, which includes elephant ivory and rhino horn, with Africa providing the main supply for the ever increasing demand in Asia. Declining wild populations in Asia and high numbers of Chinese workers in Africa’s resource and timber sector have contributed to this escalating demand.
It is estimated that since 2000, more than 1 million pangolins have been traded illegally at the international level, which makes them the most trafficked wild mammal in the world.
The U.N’s decision has afforded pangolins the highest levels of protection under CITES with the decision to uplist all 8 species to Appendix I. Now, all 8 species of pangolins are prohibited from all international commercial trade. One would hope that the stringent measures taken to save the pangolins will go a long way in bolstering the protection of these vulnerable and docile animals.