Yesterday was hailed as a “good day for pangolins” after a meeting of signatories to the CITES wildlife protection treaty decided to move the Asian species of “scaly anteater” to the agreement’s Appendix 1 category, which bans all commercial trade in the small mammals in the region.
The proposal to elevate the creature, the most-trafficked in the world, according to a recent study by San Francisco-based NGO WildAid, was one of a number voted on at the 17th conference of CITES parties, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The decision follows years of dramatic population decline among the elusive animals, which are hunted and sold for their meat in China and Vietnam, where some believe they have medicinal qualities.
The species found in Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia – the sunda pangolin – is listed as critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list, which states “virtually no” information is available on population numbers.
Speaking yesterday, Nick Marx, director of wildlife rescue and care programs for Wildlife Alliance in Cambodia, said that though the pangolin’s endangered status already prescribed punishments for trading, he hoped the CITES ruling would further boost protection efforts.
“Hopefully this will make things even safer. Pangolins have been reduced in numbers hugely everywhere in the world, they fetch a high price and they’re heavily traded,” he said, adding his organisation had confiscated about two or three of the animal in recent months. “It is illegal here, there are laws protecting them. Our rescue team was confiscating pangolins quite frequently before, and now much less so, because their number has been seriously reduced.”