Yesterday at the CITESCOP17, a monumental decision was made to save the world's most trafficked mammal, the pangolin. As Prince William recently remarked: "The pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before most people have even heard of them."
So what is a pangolin and why is it as risk of becoming extinct? A pangolin is a mammal that is covered entirely in scales. They can be found in dry woodlands, tropical forests and the savannah. Pangolins are able to quickly roll themselves up into a tight ball when threatened.
Sadly, the pangolins are trafficked by the thousands every year for their scales - these are boiled off their bodies for use in medicine. Pangolins are also poached for their meat and for their blood, which is seen as a 'healing tonic.' Up to 100,000 pangolins are estimated to be hunted and sold every year, making them the most traded wild animal in the world, which is why the CITES decision is so important.
Governments from all over the world recommended a full ban on all trade in Asian and African pangolins and will be formally endorsed next week.
The countries confirmed that all eight species of pangolins (4 Asian and 4 African) should be listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and flora (CITES), which in turn will prohibit all international trade in pangolins and their products.
This decision will now eliminate any doubt about the legality of trade which will make it significantly harder for criminals to poach them and will also increase the ramifications for those that do.
Whilst this is a pivotal moment in wildlife conservation, there is still work to be done to enforce this decision as the illegal trade of pangolins will still happen as long as the demand for their scales, blood and meat continues. They key is to reinforce the anti-trafficking efforts and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products such as the pangolin in countries like China and Vietnam where the pangolin is traded most.
WVS are working in Zambia to help protect the critically-endangered pangolin at our Wildlife Veterinary Project (WVP). Here we are working with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and are tackling the many of the threats against wildlife caused by human activity, such as poaching and snaring. We assist the DNPW in rescues and releases of illegally captured wildlife, such as the pangolin and our WVP is on the frontline to make a real difference.
Please consider a donation to support our work in protecting the pangolin.