Last year, ASI brought to your attention the plight of the most trafficked animal in the world: the meek pangolin. These shy creatures are on the verge of extinction: more than a million have been killed in the last decade. Their scales and meat sell for high prices in Asia.
The situation is so bad that pangolins are now a rarity in Asia. The trade has now shifted to Africa, where the largest shipments of pangolin bodies and scales come from Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon and Sierra Leone. Kenya, Tanzania, Congo and South Africa have all been implicated in the trade.
The majority of pangolins are exported from Nigeria and Cameroon, and end up in China. Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar are also consumers of these endangered creatures.
Andrea Matthee, from the Animal Survival International (formerly Political Animal Lobby), said that her organization is deeply concerned that - unless the world takes urgent action - pangolins will be no more. “The opening up of an African trade in pangolins could tip the balance because law enforcement in many of the countries where they are traded is poor and there seems to be an almost complete lack of concern by the governments,” she said. “Pangolins are likely to be extinct in the next twenty years at current poaching and trading rates,” she added.
The consumption of pangolin meat has been linked to the current worldwide outbreak of the Coronavirus. In response, the Chinese government has temporarily closed ‘wet’ markets where living and dead pangolins are sold.
But it is not the meat trade alone that is making them disappear: their scales are traded by the ton for use in traditional medicine.
Pangolin scales are seized by the ton in Asian ports, with up to 27 tons amongst the largest hauls. Each ton requires from 300 to almost 1600 pangolins: 27 tons would require anything from 7500 to 43 000 of these shy, affectionate animals. Sanctioned by the Chinese government, 200 different pharmaceutical companies there use the powdered scales in 60 different types of medicine for treating anything from arthritis to rheumatism.