Pangolin listed among most trafficked wildlife

BANGKOK – The pangolin is one of the most trafficked wildlife species, a concerned official has said. USAID Wildlife Asia chief of party Robert Mather noted that the pangolin is now tagged as the “world’s most poached animal” mainly due to the high demand for traditional medicine.


“Another is the fact that they haven’t received the same level of legal protection given other species. So that one of the issues being talked about in countries like China for example, is how to elevate the level of protection being given to pangolins,” Mather explained during a workshop on “Combating Wildlife Trafficking” held here recently at the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel.


He said the aim is to give pangolins the same level of protection being extended to elephants and rhinoceros. “I think in the past, they have not been so well protected by the law, plus a lot of people are collecting them also.”

Because there is now a dwindling supply of pangolins in Southeast Asia and China, he said supplies are now coming from Africa.

“China estimated that between 2008 and 2016, the total demand for pangolin consumption was about 1.6 million. Meanwhile, confiscated pangolins were around 87,000 during that period. So pangolins, and pangolin scales when calculated to make one pangolin – would total 87,000 pangolins seized by law enforcement agencies,” Mather noted during the conference held in mid-September.

“This is now the trend. Next to pangolins being the most poached wildlife are the freshwater turtles and marine turtles, followed by reptiles,” he said.

Meanwhile, data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) in Manila said that pangolins are among the mammals classified as commonly traded species in the Philippines together with monkeys.

Based on the estimate of the BMB, almost a thousand Palawan pangolins were illegally traded from 2000 to 2013.

Last October, pangolins were included under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES.

Adopted by over 180 countries, CITES is an international agreement that aims to ensure that the survival of wild animals and plants is not threatened by their trade. Appendix I lists plants and animals threatened with extinction, thus trading them internationally for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited.

Of the eight pangolin species worldwide, only one can be found in the Philippines. Locally known as balintong, the Manis culionensis is endemic to Palawan province and is considered critically endangered, with its numbers highly threatened by low fecundity or number of offspring produced per year, loss of habitat, and illegal trade of scales and meat. 


(This is first published in The Philippines Star. It is reported by Rhodina Villanueva, a journalist of The Philippines Star who participated in the Media Workshop on Combating Wildlife Crime in ASEAN and China, during September 12-15, 2017, in Bangkok and Nakorn Nayok, Thailand, organized by USAID Wildlife Asia)