A Recipe for Extinction – The plight of the Pangolin post COVID-19

International wildlife charity Born Free has today launched a new appeal to help halt and reverse the devastating plight of the pangolin following the negative press the species has received from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though all pangolins are meant to be protected under international law—all eight are threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with three of the Asian species classified as Critically Endangered—the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled pangolins into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. It’s estimated that scales from around 600,000 pangolins have been seized by enforcement authorities in the past four years alone, and that’s just the ones that were intercepted – the true figure for the number of pangolins being trafficked will be much higher.

The species has become the world’s most trafficked mammal and, while the exact number of pangolins worldwide is still unknown, Born Free is making one thing clear–demand for pangolin scales and meat means these little-known, innocent creatures could become extinct before we even have a chance to fully understand them.

With the world watching intently, following the story that COVID-19 may have stemmed from bats or pangolins, China finally removed pangolin scales from the official listing of ingredients approved for use in traditional Chinese medicine in June 2020. Despite this, large scale pangolin trafficking continues. Over a tonne of scales was seized by Hong Kong customs in September last year, and just a few weeks ago a haul of pangolin scales was seized from a gang by officials in Theni, India.

Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free, commented: “Pangolins have the highest level of protection against commercial trade under international law, yet because of demand for their meat and scales in order to satisfy tastes among some consumers for their exotic and supposedly medicinal properties, pangolins continue to be captured, trafficked and killed in vast numbers. Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that, without urgent and robust action, these unique, shy, fascinating creatures could disappear altogether before most people are even aware that they ever existed.”

For more information or to adopt a pangolin family through Born Free visit https://www.bornfree.org.uk/plight-pangolin.

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