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Pangolins: the most trafficked mammal in the world

A Ground Pangolin Smutsia temminckii, classified as Vulnerable by IUCN © Keith Connelly / IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group

With up to a million individuals poached within the last decade alone, pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world by a considerable margin.

We're working to disrupt trafficking routes, equip enforcement agenices with the tools they need to combat poachers and help governments strengthen international wildlife policy that helps protect pangolins from illegal trade.
 

The eight species

There are a total of eight pangolin species across Africa and Asia. They are typically elusive, shy creatures whose bodies are covered in hard, keratin scales. They roll into a ball when threatened which can make them easy pickings for poachers and trappers. Four of these species are native to Asia, the other four native to Africa. The Asian species comprise the Sunda Pangolin, Philippine Pangolin, Chinese Pangolin and Indian Pangolin, their African cousins are the Long-tailed Pangolin, Tree Pangolin, Giant Pangolin and the Ground Pangolin.

Asian pangolins

 

Sunda Pangolin
© Dan Challender / IUCN
Philippine Pangolin
© Roger Dolorosa
Chinese Pangolin
© Sarita Jnawali
Indian Pangolin
© Gerald Cubitt



 

 

 

 

African pangolins

 

Long-tailed Pangolin© Rod Cassidy | www.sanghalodge.comTree Pangolin
© Hugues Akpona

Giant Pangolin © Tanzania Carnivore Program/ZSL/WCS/TAWIRIGround Pangolin
© Adrian Steirn / Tikki Hywood Trust

 

 

 

Transnational poaching and illegal trade

For well over a decade pangolins have been poached, trafficked and traded in staggering volumes. A recent TRAFFIC report revealed that a minimum of 120 tonnes of pangolins and their parts were smuggled internationally between 2010–2015. Due to the obvious nature of illegal trade, the actual figure could be much higher.

Data from a recent TRAFFIC study shows the breakdown of pangolin parts trafficked between 2010–2015 © TRAFFIC

Pangolins are smuggled by criminals in a number of forms to satisfy the needs of various consumer markets. Customs departments, undercover investigators and international enforcement agencies have documented seizures involving pangolin blood, meat, claws, tails, heads, organs and even live individuals. However, the most common trafficked pangolin derivative is their scales, often transported in huge sacks via freight or air cargo.

The demand that drives poaching

An undercover TRAFFIC investigator is offered pangolin stew at a pangolin processing plant © TRAFFICPangolins are consumed throughout Asian markets, motivated by a number of cultural, spiritual and social factors; the primary consumer markets for pangolin products are in Viet Nam and China. Pangolin scales are most often powdered where they are believed to cure various ailments including nourishing the kidneys, treating asthma and helping new mothers to breast feed.

Increasingly, pangolins are consumed as a delicacy or luxury item, obtained by wealthy middle class businessmen as a display of wealth and authority to impress prospective clients and partners.

Latest TRAFFIC reports on pangolins

As trade monitoring specialists, TRAFFIC compiles, collects and investigates wildlife trade data, releasing impartial analysis and recommendations to help relevant governments, enforcement agencies, NGOs and businesses develop the necessary policies to ensure they are not complicit in illegal wildlife trade. We're at the forefront of pangolin conservation, monitoring the latest trade trends, dynamics, routes and tactics to help enforcement agencies stay one step ahead of the traffickers.

Download the full report The Global Trafficking of Pangolins: A comprehensive study of pangolin seizures and trafficking routes between 2010–2015Download the full report Scaly Nexus: Mapping Indonesian pangolin seizures between 2010–2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latest news and seizures on pangolins

Malaysian Customs officers display a seizure of pangolin scales at Kuala Lumpur International Airport © TRAFFICManila, Philippines, 30 January 2018—It’s the capital and one of the world’s most densely populated cities, and now, bustling Manila is also the unlikely scene of the rescue for several individual pangolins.

READ MORE ...

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 November 2017–Pangolin scales in the mail? That's exactly what Malaysian Customs found when they scanned 13 boxes from Sabah and Sarawak at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 13 June 2017–For the third time in just over a month, Malaysian authorities have seized a large shipment of pangolin scales inbound from Africa.

READ MORE ...

 

Ensuring wildlife trade is not a threat to the conservation of nature

 

Our work to protect pangolins, elephants, forests, rhinos, sharks and medicinal plants takes us to countries across the world, monitoring trade and ensuring it doesn't threaten the conservation status of species and ecosystems. We've flagged poaching and unsustanable trade to governments, alerting them to the need to change policies and laws to ensure species aren't negatively impacted.

Help us continue our vital conservation work, support TRAFFIC and join our mission for sustainable wildlife trade and a future that protects both humans and species like pangolins.