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Environment

Published: Monday August 4, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday August 4, 2014 MYT 7:48:00 AM

Pangolins: Eaten to extinction

Pangolins are being eaten out of existence at banquets in China and Vietnam.

DEMAND for the scaly anteater’s meat is matched by demand for their scales for use in Chinese medicine. In an update to the authoritative Red List of Threatened Species, all eight species of the anteater were upgraded to threatened status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The pangolin is the world’s only scaly mammal. It uses the scales as armour and uses its long, sticky tongue to catch prey. According to experts at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the demand for pangolins native to Asia has been so great that poachers are now turning to Africa, where four of the species are found. Conservationists say there is already evidence of an underground, intercontinental trade in pangolins between Africa and Asia. More than a million are believed to have been illegally caught over the last decade.

Prof Jonathan Baillie, conservation programmes director at ZSL, said: “All eight pangolin species are now listed as threatened with extinction, largely because they are being illegally traded to China and Vietnam. In the 21st century we really should not be eating species to extinction … there is simply no excuse for allowing this illegal trade to continue.”

More than £4mil (RM21.7mil) needs to be spent to address the problem, according to the pangolin specialist group at the IUCN, which recently published a pangolin action plan Scaling up Pangolin Conservation. The plan focuses on protecting pangolin strongholds in Asia and Africa, helping local communities move away from poaching, strengthening legislation, and most importantly, understanding and reducing consumer demand.

It proposes a £1mil (RM5.44mil) campaign to raise awareness of the threat and £2mil (RM10.8mil) for a strategy to cut demand in China and Vietnam.

Pangolins are now the most illegally traded mammal in the world, with more than one million believed to have been poached from the wild over the past decade, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. – Filepic

The Chinese pangolin and Sunda pangolin are now critically endangered, the worst listing before extinction, with the Indian and Philippine pangolins upgraded to endangered. The four African species are all upgraded to vulnerable.

Dan Challender, co-chair of the IUCN pangolin specialist group, says: “Our global strategy to halt the decline of the world’s pangolins needs to be urgently implemented. A vital first step is for the Chinese and Vietnamese governments to conduct an inventory of their pangolin scale stocks and make this publicly available to prove that wild-caught pangolins are no longer supplying commercial trade.” – Guardian News & Media

Tags / Keywords: Environment, pangolin, endangered species

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