Hunted for its scales and meat, the pangolin, or scaly anteater, is threatened across Asia and Africa by a massive trade in animal parts that is supplying the appetite for traditional medicine, among other uses. The increase in the number of pangolins trafficked globally over the past decade has been so great that it is now considered the world's most illegally traded mammal.
Pressure on the Asian pangolin, meanwhile, has had a ripple effect among the four species in Africa, where poaching and trade of the pangolin is growing.
In an effort to highlight the extent of the problem, the Environmental Investigation Agency has mapped illegal pangolin seizures from 2000 to 2018 based on a subset of seizure incidents compiled from publicly available records. Yet the data represents only a fraction of actual trade, the EIA says. Analysis of available crime reports suggest that 160,000 pangolins have been seized over the past 16 years, it notes on its website.
TRAFFIC, a non-profit organization specializing in wildlife trafficking, estimates that 1 million pangolins have been poached in the last decade.
The scales and blood of pangolins are in high demand for medicinal purposes as well as souvenirs such as jewelry. The meat is considered a delicacy and status symbol across regions.
Due to the growing threat, all eight species of pangolins are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits them from international trade.
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