Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Pangolins in danger of being wiped out

Chinese demand for the pangolin, a scale-covered anteater, is forcing the endangered animals closer to extinction. Pangolins are disappearing in China and across their ranges in East and Southeast Asia. They have become the most frequently seized mammal in Asia's illegal wildlife trade, as smugglers sell the creatures to meet culinary and medicinal demand.

Traders are importing pangolins into China from as far away as Africa, where four of the eight known species of the anteater live.

Pangolins have been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but growing human populations and greater wealth across China have increased demand. Pangolin fetuses, scales, and blood are used in medicine, the meat is considered a delicacy, and stuffed pangolins are sold as souvenirs.

The creatures are often kept alive without food or water while individual scales are pulled off them as required.

The decline in pangolin populations and intensified efforts to curb the illegal trade have led to rising prices for pangolin products - further enticing organized crime rings to smuggle the endangered animals. A kilogram of pangolin scales that earned only 80 yuan (US$10) in the early 1990s would now yield 1,200 yuan ($175) on the black market, according to Zhang Yue, a wildlife trade expert in China's State Forestry Administration.

An estimated 25,000-50,000 wild pangolins lived in China in 2000, according to a national survey. Populations in Guangdong and Hunan provinces have since dropped as low as 10 percent of the 2000 estimate, and populations in Hainan, Henan, and Jiangsu provinces are likely extinct.

China - again.

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