Environment

The Illicit Trade Of Pangolins - Source And Destination Countries By Volume Of Seizures

The indiscriminate illegal trafficking of pangolins could soon cause these unique mammals to disappear from the face of the earth.

Pangolins or scaly anteaters are mammals belonging to the order of Pholidota. They are burrowing mammals that eat ants and termites using their long and sticky tongue. When threatened, Pangolins roll themselves into a tight ball as a means of protection. They have a conical head with jaws but lack teeth. They vary in size and color from light to yellowish brown with an overlapping scale cover on their body. The protective scales are made of keratin. Pangolins are nocturnal and live in hollow trees. Each Pangolin lives alone and only meet during mating. Four Pangolins species are found in Asia while the other four species are found in Africa south of Sahara Desert. Pangolin population is threatened by excessive hunting and deforestation of their habitat.

Pangolins In Danger

Since Pangolins are highly endangered species due to the growing demand, they are highly protected under the national and international laws and trading on these animals and their products are prohibited. These mammals have been added to the Zoology Society of London’s list of endangered animals. Besides, the eight species of Pangolins are classified as threatened with extinction by the IUCN. The IUCN SSC Pangolins Specialist Group has launched a campaign Scaled up Pangolins Conservation as a global action plan towards the Conservation of Pangolins.

Why Are Pangolins Illegally Traded?

Pangolins are among the most trafficked mammals in Asia especially in China and Vietnam where 41,000 pangolins were seized between 2007 and 2015 representing only 10% of the actual pangolins being traded illegally. Between 2011 and 2013 an estimated 233,000 pangolins were killed representing just a tip of the trade. Their meet is a delicacy while their scales are used for the traditional treatment of ailments such as asthma and arthritis. Their skin can also be used for making dresses. In China, Pangolins meat is estimated to cost $200 per kilogram. Pangolins scales are also believed to be good luck charm in Asia. In Vietnam, Pangolins are hunted mainly for their meat.

Why Indonesia Is Infamous For Illegal Pangolin Trade?

Illegal trade in pangolins is rampant in Indonesia where 31,000 pangolins have been seized between 2007 and 2015. Malaysia, Uganda, and Thailand are also notorious for the illegal trade in pangolins with a total of 21,000 pangolins seized in the three countries during the same period. The illegal trade in pangolins is particularly rampant in Indonesia. In 2015, 1.3 tons of frozen pangolins on transit to Singapore were seized by the Indonesian authority. Though Indonesian government has implemented bans on hunting and trading of these endangered mammals with harsh penalties for the violators, the enforcement of these laws are still weak in the country due to insufficient wildlife management funds. The legal consumption of pangolins as a medicinal tradition has also contributed significantly to this illegal trade. The high prices for pangolins and high demand in Asia have also added to the illicit trade, especially in Indonesia.

Will Pangolins Soon Disappear?

Given the high demand for pangolins, high market value, traditions regarding the animal and the difficulty in enforcing the law on the ban of pangolins trade, traders will exceed the pangolins exchange quota. The slow pace of enforcing these laws only serve to strengthen the illegal trade network which will make it even harder to curb this practice in future. Pangolins are likely to disappear sooner than expected

The Illicit Trade Of Pangolins: Source And Destination Countries By Volume Of Seizures

RankSource CountryNumber of Pangolins Seized (2007 to 2015)Destination CountryNumber of Pangolins Seized (2007 to 2015)
1Indonesia31,000China32,000
2Malaysia7,000Vietnam9,000
3Uganda7,000Philippines2,000
4Thailand7,000Others2,000
5Myanmar5,000
6Philippines4,000
7Sierra Leone4,000

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