Recent seizures of pangolin scales and meat in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Uganda highlight the poaching crisis and the need for traditional medicine to find suitable, sustainable substitutes, according to WildAid, a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes.
The seizures reported in Hong Kong and Malaysia are the largest each country has ever recorded. Meanwhile, new data from Hong Kong – a major wildlife trafficking hub – shows a dramatic increase in pangolin seizures and a simultaneous decline in ivory seizures, said WildAid.
In light of pangolins’ upgraded international level of protection and dwindling existing supplies of scales, it is becoming necessary for traditional medicine practitioners to find substitutes that maintain the efficacy of traditional medicine, but adapt to the changing environment. At a recent conference in Hong Kong, TCM experts stated that there are over 100 viable alternatives to the uses of pangolin scales already prescribed in traditional medicines, demonstrating the flexibility of the practice.
“Were China to end the sale of pangolin products in the same way they did ivory, China could help save African and Asian pangolins. Pangolins cannot be bred commercially and all populations are banned from trade so there is no possible legitimate source for ongoing sales,” says Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid.
China implemented a domestic ban on ivory last year, and international trade in pangolin scales has been banned under the United Nations CITES treaty since 2017.
World Pangolin Day was observed this year on Saturday, February 16, 2019 as part of efforts to raise awareness about the pangolin’s plight.