Tag Archives: pangolin

The Most Trafficked Animal in the World: pangolin

Pangolin defending itself against lions. image from wikipedia

Pangolins are a smuggler’s dream. For defence, and when asleep, they roll themselves up into spheres, scales on the outside, to thwart any predator. That makes them easy to handle and pack. And handled and packed they have been, in enormous numbers. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, a worldwide wildlife-preservation organisation, reckons that more than 1m pangolins were traded illegally from their African and Asian homelands over the decade to 2014. That may be a conservative estimate. A paper published in 2017 in Conservation Letters calculates the number of pangolins hunted in central Africa alone as between 400,000 and 2.7m a year. Based on statistics such as these it seems likely that pangolins, of which there are eight species, four African and four Asian, are the most trafficked type of animal in the world.

Some are consumed locally. That is not necessarily illegal, for laws vary from place to place. International trade, though, is a different matter. Early in 2017 CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, listed all eight pangolins as part of what is known as Appendix 1. This means signatories to the convention (which most countries are) cannot permit them to be imported or exported.

Most of those that are, nevertheless, exported illegally from their homelands end up in China and Vietnam. In these countries pangolins’ meat is a treat and their scales are used in folk medicine, even though those scales are made of keratin, the same substance as hair and fingernails, and thus have no medicinal value. Pangolin scales fetch as much as $750 a kilogram in China. A 12-tonne stash of them, the world’s biggest seizure, was found last summer by the authorities in Shenzhen….

Cracking down on poachers and traders is difficult, particularly in poor places…Part of the blame lies with ignorance. Awareness of pangolins is patchy. They are nocturnal and shy, and thus rarely feature on tourists’ tick-lists. That makes them a low priority, even to game-management authorities who know they are there. …The Hywood Foundation’s initiative is part of a larger effort in Uganda, sponsored by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the government’s conservation agency. Now that pangolins are on the UWA’s radar, it has stepped up intelligence and investigative work on poachers and traffickers…At the consumption end of the trafficking routes, too, things are starting to happen…. In theory, eating pangolin meat (along with that of many other wild species) is already illegal in China—not for conservation reasons, but as a reaction to the outbreak of SARS, a fatal respiratory disease…Persuading people to stop using the animals’ scales may be harder.

Excerpts from  Conserving Pagolins: A Problem of Scale, Economist, Feb 3, 2018

Lion Bones and Fishhook Cactus: CITES at 2016

fishhookn cactus. image from wikipedia

The triennial  summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) closed on October 4, 2016 ….

The Johannesburg conference was marked by agreement on measures to improve sustainable trade in a number of species, including the queen conch, humphead wrasse, sharks, snakes and African wild dog as well as a large range of timber species, such as bubinga and rosewoods, and the African cherry and agarwood.

Parties also recognized several conservation success stories, including that of the Cape mountain zebra, several species of crocodiles and the wood bison, which were all by consensus downlisted from Appendix I under CITES to Appendix II in recognition of their improved conservation status.

There was fresh impetus to further safeguard threatened wild animals and plants with added protection for the African grey parrot, Barbary Macaque, Blaine’s fishhook cactus, elephant, pangolin and saiga antelope; and well-targeted enforcement measures agreed to combat illegal trade for specific species. These included the African grey parrot, African lion, cheetah, helmeted hornbill, pangolin, rhino and totoaba.

CoP17 saw a number of firsts, including, the first ever:

Resolution on corruption and wildlife crime;
Decisions on cybercrime and wildlife crime;
Resolution on strategies to reduce the demand for illegally traded wildlife,
Resolutions affecting the helmeted hornbill and snakes;
Decisions on targeting the illegal fishing of and trade in totoaba, and the related illegal killing of the vaquita;

Some other notable outcomes include:

The rejection of a Decision-Making Mechanism (DMM) for a future trade in ivory;
An agreement to close domestic markets in ivory where they contribute to poaching or illegal trade;
The rejection of all proposals to change the protection of Southern African elephant populations;
Stricter monitoring and regulation of hunting trophies to bring them under trade control measures, including recommending conservation benefits and incentives for people to conserve wildlife;
A decision to conduct a study to improve knowledge on regulation of trade in the European eel, and to look more broadly at all Anguilla eels;
An agreement to undertake specific work on marine turtles to understand the impact of international trade on their conservation status;
The introduction of a captive breeding compliance process to check the authenticity of specimens described as captive bred;
Acceptance of the National Ivory Action Plans as a tool for those Parties mostly affected by illegal trade in ivory, including source, transit and destination countries, to build their capacity in addressing illegal trade and ensuring compliance with the commitments they make under the plans;
A decision to undertake studies in legal and illegal trade in lion bones and other parts and derivatives;
A request to review all species listed on Appendix I to identify what measures are needed to improve their conservation status;
Improvements to processes to ensure that wildlife trade is sustainable, legal and traceable; and
Agreements on process to improve traceability and identification of CITES-listed species.

Excerpts from PRESS RELEASE, Largest ever World Wildlife Conference hailed as a ‘game changer, CITES, Oct. 4, 2016