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Pangolin protection upgraded by China

Date: 17 June 2020 Tags: Biodiversity


China accorded the pangolin the highest level of protection and removed the scales of the endangered mammal from its list of approved traditional medicines.



While China banned pangolin meat in February amid links between wild meat and the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it remains a question on how seriously the ban on its scales will be imposed.



  • The move came about after the 2020 edition of the “Chinese Pharmacopoeia” excluded traditional medicines made from four species, and also listed alternatives sourced from species which are not endangered.

  • When reports linking the transmission of the virus to wet markets in Wuhan emerged, China banned the consumption of wild animals, including pangolins, in an attempt to limit the risk of diseases being transmitted to humans from animals.

  • Before its latest decision, China has, over the past year, removed health insurance cover to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recipes containing pangolin products.

  • Also, pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam, and their scales are believed to improve lactation, promote blood circulation, and remove blood stasis. These so-called health benefits are so far unproven.

  • While the link between pangolins and Covid-19 remains unproven, the mere suspicion has increased public discussion on health risks from human-wildlife interactions, and raised awareness of the exploitation of pangolins.

  • Once the demand for pangolins in China became known, indigenous tribes in Eastern and Central India began to supply customers through middlemen in Bhutan and Nepal.

  • A study released in 2018 by the international conservation group TRAFFIC had found that 5,772 pangolins had been detected by law enforcement agencies in India between 2009 and 2017. 

  • The immediate impact would be pangolin scales losing their legitimacy in TCM. However, the history of the ban of wildlife trade in China is not encouraging.

  • Experts have hailed China’s decision as the single greatest measure that could be taken to save the pangolin from extinction.

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