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Protect Pangolins from Vanishing in Trafficking Crisis

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Sponsor: The Animal Rescue Site

These unique and shy creatures have existed on Earth for 60 million years, and their disappearance would be a tragic loss. Take action for pangolins!


Pangolins, the shy and elusive mammals with reptilian appearances, have existed on Earth for about 60 million years1.

These unique, toothless creatures feed on ants and termites, using their sticky tongues to pick up food. They are nocturnal animals that lead solitary lives, coming together only during mating season. Their bodies are covered in scales, which serve as a natural shield from predators2. When threatened, they have the ability to quickly roll into a tight ball and use their sharp-scaled tails to defend themselves. Additionally, pangolins are capable of secreting a pungent odor, similar to that of a skunk3.

However, pangolins are currently facing a major crisis.

Pangolins are being trafficked by poachers all over the world due to their highly coveted scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine4. Their illegal trade makes them vulnerable to extinction, with conservation groups warning that they are the most trafficked mammal on Earth. Despite efforts to save them, the pangolin's situation is only getting worse5.

An announcement made in June 2020 by China, which removed pangolins from the official list of traditional Chinese medicines, was lauded by conservation groups6. According to a spokesperson for a wildlife charity who spoke to the BBC, the move was seen as a "game changer" for the survival of the species7. Nevertheless, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has raised concerns about the legitimacy of this announcement.

Although pangolins have been removed from the latest edition of the pharmacopoeia, a list of ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is concerned that this may not result in a total ban on the use of the species8. According to the EIA, the inclusion of pangolins in approved patent medicines may continue to legitimize and promote their use9. As a result, the agency is calling for clarification on the issue and urging the Chinese government to remove or amend any approved patent medicines containing pangolin from the list.

This is not the first time this has happened. Despite not being included in the "key ingredients" section of the pharmacopoeia, leopard bone and bear bile are still being listed among the ingredients for patent medicines, which allegedly continues their legal commercial use10. Chris Hamley, EIA Senior Pangolin Campaigner, says the latest news on the strengthening of domestic pangolin protections in China is a "positive result," but he adds that "these latest moves [must be] backed up by further action and official announcements," and the government must ensure that "existing scale stockpiles will be destroyed."

The pangolin's plight is further compounded by the fact that it is not only trafficked for its scales but also for its meat, which is considered a delicacy in some countries11. As such, they are declining in numbers and are ranked as Critically Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN's Red List12, 13, 14.

Efforts to save the pangolin are failing due to the demand for their scales and meat, as well as inadequate legal protections. This is despite the pangolin being recognized as one of the most trafficked and endangered mammals on the planet. The species has also been severely impacted by habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade15.

Conservation groups are working to save the pangolin, but their efforts are often met with obstacles. In addition to the ongoing demand for their scales and meat, the pangolin's elusive nature makes it difficult to study and protect them16. Many pangolins are killed by poachers before they can be rescued and rehabilitated17.

To address the problem, governments and conservation groups have taken various measures to protect pangolins. For example, in 2016, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the trade of pangolins18. However, the ban has failed to curb the illegal trade of pangolins, and the species remains the most trafficked mammal on earth.

Take the pangolin pledge and help us save the pangolin from extinction!

More on this issue:

  1. EIA International (2023), "Helping Pangolins."
  2. Gabrielle Nicole, A-Z Animals (11 March 2022), "What Do Pangolins Eat? Explore Their Specialized Diet."
  3. Save Pangolins (2022), "What is a Pangolin?."
  4. Jacqueline Conciatore, African Wildlife Foundation (15 October 2019), "27 Million Pangolins are Poached Every Year for Their Scales and Meat."
  5. Veronica Balderas Iglesias, VOA News (1 March 2023), "Pangolins Still Most Trafficked Mammal Despite Protections."
  6. Michael Standaert, The Guardian (9 Jun 2020), "China to Protect Pangolins by Removing Scales from Medicine List."
  7. Helen Briggs, BBC News (10 Jun 2020), "Pangolins taken off the menu in China."
  8. National Geographic (29 June 2020), "Pangolins Receive New Protections, Traditional Medicine in China."
  9. Charles Emogor, EIA International (7 January 2022), "Pangolins: Unique but Imperilled Mammals Need Urgent Help to Avoid the Fate of the Dodo."
  10. Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay (24 Jun 2020), "Did China really ban the pangolin trade? Not quite, investigators say."
  11. TRAFFIC INTERNATIONAL (2023), "Pangolins."
  12. IUCN Red List (2021), "Manis crassicaudata."
  13. IUCN Red List (2021), "Manis javanica."
  14. IUCN Red List (2021), "Smutsia gigantea."
  15. Dr. Dan Challender, PBS Nature (18 May 2018), "Saving Pangolins from Extinction."
  16. Joshua D. DiPaola, Marnoch Yindee & Joshua M. Plotnik (17 June 2020), "Investigating the use of sensory information to detect and track prey by the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) with conservation in mind."
  17. World Animal Protection (27 November 2018), "Pangolin poaching: the brutal reality."
  18. Pervaze A. Sheikh, M. Lynne Corn, Congressional Research Service (21 September 2016), "The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)."
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The Pledge:

I pledge to take action to protect pangolins from extinction. As a responsible global citizen, I understand that I have a crucial role to play in safeguarding these gentle and unique creatures.

Here are some steps I will take to save pangolins from extinction:

  1. Educate myself and others about the pangolin

I will research and learn more about pangolins, their habitat, behavior, and the threats they face. I will share my knowledge with my friends and family, and spread awareness about the need to protect pangolins.

  1. Avoid purchasing pangolin products

Pangolin products such as scales, meat, and other body parts are illegally traded in many countries, and buying them only fuels the demand for their trade. I will refuse to buy any pangolin product, and encourage others to do the same.

  1. Reduce my carbon footprint

Climate change is also a threat to pangolins and their habitat. I will take steps to reduce my carbon footprint by conserving energy, using public transportation, and reducing waste.

  1. Advocate for stronger laws and regulations

I will speak out and support efforts to strengthen laws and regulations that protect pangolins from poaching and trafficking. I will urge my elected officials to take action to protect these endangered animals.

  1. Support conservation organizations

There are many organizations working tirelessly to protect pangolins and their habitat, and I will support them by making donations, volunteering, and spreading awareness about their work. In particular, Project Peril, a signature program of Greater Good Charities, is committed to working with the best non-profits to combat the immense poaching problem. This group works with our partners to curb wildlife crime against pangolins by improving monitoring and database organization about pangolin seizures and market demand, conservation efforts, rehabilitation and reintroduction protocols and more.

By taking these steps, I pledge to do my part to save pangolins from extinction. I hope others will join me in this effort to protect these amazing animals for generations to come.

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