The illegal pangolin trade is finally banned all over the world

La Convenzione sul commercio internazionale delle specie a rischio ha intensificato la protezione dei pangolini, i mammiferi più venduti illegalmente.

Pangolins, those wonderful and odd creatures that resemble small scaly anteaters, hold a sad record. They’re the most illegally trafficked mammals worldwide. Every year over 10,000 pangolins are illegally introduced in China from Southeast Asia. All eight species of pangolin, which is found over large parts of Africa and Asia, are facing extinction due to the illegal wildlife trade.

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A pangolin can eat up to 70 million ants yearly © NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A total ban on pangolin trade

In order to try to protect these animals, the United Nations agreed a total ban on pangolin trade. The measure was adopted during the summit of CITES, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, that is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. The eight species of pangolin were introduced in CITES Appenix I, that bans the commercial sale of pangolins or parts of their bodies across international borders.

pangolin traditional chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine is the enemy number one of pangolins © JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images

Summit on the trade of endangered species

The summit, which will be held until 5 October, sees 2,500 delegates of 181 countries consider more than sixty proposals to change trade controls affecting around 500 species. According to CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon, the conference is “one of the most critical meetings in the 43-year history of the Convention”.

illegal trafficking pangolins
Pangolins are prized for their scales, which are used in Chinese traditional medicine (a kilo cost as many as 600 dollars), as well as for their meat © Taylor Weidman/Getty Images

Pangolins are victims of Chinese traditional medicine

Pangolins are endangered because they’re prized for their scales, which are considered a medicine in China and Vietnam. One kilogramme of scales of this bizarre mammal costs 600 dollars. The demand for pangolin meat, which is considered a delicacy in China, is also a threat to the survival of this species. Pangolins, shy and short-sighted animals that leave their dens during the night in search for ants, defend themselves from predators through their armour made of hard, sharp scales. This extra defense is useless against traps. The new ban imposed by CITES, enforceable to all member countries, could offer a new future to pangolins that will hopefully face their threats by curling up into a ball.

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