News Column

Asian banquets push pangolins closer to extinction

July 29, 2014

Adam Vaughan

Pangolins are being "eaten to extinction" at banquets in China and Vietnam, conservationists have warned.

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 endangered animals, all eight species of the anteater were upgraded to threatened status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The pangolin, resembling a pine cone on legs, 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 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 past 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 pounds 4m needs to be spent to tackle the problem, according to the pangolin specialist group at the IUCN, which today publishes a pangolin action plan.

Cutting demand is judged the single most important aim, and the plan proposes a pounds 1m campaign to raise awareness of the threat and pounds 2m for a strategy to cut demand in China and Vietnam.

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.


A pangolin rescued from a smuggler's boat is set free in the wild in Indonesia

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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