China’s role in international pangolin trade

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China plays a significant role in the international pangolin trade, as it is the primary destination for the vast quantities of pangolin scales trafficked internationally every year from across Asia and Africa.

Here are some key points about China’s role in the international pangolin trade:

  • Demand: China is the largest market for pangolin products in the world, and the demand for pangolins in China has a significant impact on pangolin populations in other countries.
  • Illegal trade: The illegal trade of pangolins is driven by the demand for pangolin products in China, with pangolin scales and meat being smuggled across borders to meet this demand. This illegal trade has contributed to the decline of pangolin populations in other countries, and has made it difficult to regulate the trade of pangolins internationally.
  • Conservation efforts: Efforts to protect pangolins in other countries are hindered by the demand for pangolin products in China, as well as the difficulty of regulating the trade of pangolins internationally. International efforts to address the illegal trade of pangolins include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans the international pangolin trade, and the United States’ Lacey Act, which prohibits the import of illegally harvested wildlife.

China’s demand for pangolins has a significant impact on pangolin populations globally, and addressing the demand for pangolin products in China will be crucial for protecting pangolin populations internationally.

China’s Legal Framework

China has domestic laws and regulations related to the import, export, and sale of pangolins.

These legal frameworks impact the international pangolin trade in several ways:

  • Wildlife Protection Law: China’s Wildlife Protection Law bans the sale, purchase, and use of Class II and Class I protected species, except for scientific research, captive breeding, exhibition, heritage conservation, or other special purposes. Pangolins are classified as Class I protected species in China, which means they have the same legal protections as the giant panda, with tough punishments for poaching and most types of trading.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine Pharmacopoeia: In 2020, China officially removed the pangolin scale from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Pharmacopoeia, which is a list of approved ingredients for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). However, the use of pangolin scales in TCM is still permitted in China from officially approved government stockpiles.
  • National Forestry and Grassland Administration: In 2020, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration in China announced that pangolins would be uplisted from Class II state protection to Class I under the Wildlife Protection Law. This move gives pangolins the highest level of protection in China and means that all pangolins are effectively considered Class I protected animals in the country.
  • Enforcement: Despite these legal frameworks, the illegal trade of pangolins continues to be a problem in China, with pangolin scales and meat being smuggled across borders to meet the demand for pangolin products. The enforcement of regulations and the effectiveness of conservation efforts are hindered by the continued demand for pangolin products, as well as the difficulty of regulating the online market for pangolin-derived products.

China has domestic laws and regulations related to the import, export, and sale of pangolins, but the illegal trade of pangolins continues to be a problem in the country.

Addressing the demand for pangolin products in China will be crucial for protecting pangolin populations globally.

Consumer Demand in China

Factors driving the demand for pangolin products in China include cultural, economic, and social influences.

Here are some key points from the search results:

  • Cultural influences: Pangolins have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries, and are believed to have medicinal properties. Pangolin meat is also considered a delicacy in some parts of China, and is often served at banquets and other special occasions. The cultural significance of pangolins has contributed to their demand in China, despite laws preventing their trade.
  • Economic influences: As China’s economy has grown, so has the demand for luxury items, including pangolin meat and scales. The perception that pangolin products are rare and valuable has contributed to their high cost and demand in China.
  • Social influences: The rise of social media and e-commerce platforms has made it easier for consumers to access pangolin products, and has contributed to the growth of the online market for pangolin-derived products. The convenience of online shopping and the ability to purchase pangolin products anonymously has made it more difficult to regulate the trade of pangolins in China.

The demand for pangolin products in China is driven by a complex set of cultural, economic, and social influences.

Addressing these factors will be crucial for reducing the demand for pangolins and protecting their populations from further decline.

China’s Enforcement Efforts

China has taken measures to enforce and regulate the international trade of pangolins, but the effectiveness of these efforts in curbing illegal trade is still a matter of debate.

Here are some key points from the search results:

  • Wildlife Protection Law: China’s Wildlife Protection Law bans the sale, purchase, and use of Class II and Class I protected species, including pangolins, except for scientific research, captive breeding, exhibition, heritage conservation, or other special purposes. Pangolins are classified as Class I protected species in China, which means they have the same legal protections as the giant panda, with tough punishments for poaching and most types of trading.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine Pharmacopoeia: In 2020, China officially removed the pangolin scale from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Pharmacopoeia, which is a list of approved ingredients for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). However, the use of pangolin scales in TCM is still permitted in China from officially approved government stockpiles.
  • National Forestry and Grassland Administration: In 2020, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration in China announced that pangolins would be uplisted from Class II state protection to Class I under the Wildlife Protection Law. This move gives pangolins the highest level of protection in China and means that all pangolins are effectively considered Class I protected animals in the country.
  • Enforcement: Despite these legal frameworks, the illegal trade of pangolins continues to be a problem in China, with pangolin scales and meat being smuggled across borders to meet the demand for pangolin products. The enforcement of regulations and the effectiveness of conservation efforts are hindered by the continued demand for pangolin products, as well as the difficulty of regulating the online market for pangolin-derived products.

China has taken measures to enforce and regulate the international trade of pangolins, but the effectiveness of these efforts in curbing illegal trade is still a matter of debate.

Addressing the demand for pangolin products in China will be crucial for reducing the illegal trade of pangolins and protecting their populations from further decline.

International Cooperation

China has collaborated with other countries and international organizations to combat the illegal pangolin trade.

Here are some initiatives in place to address this global issue:

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES): CITES is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES has banned the international trade of pangolins, and China is a signatory to this agreement.
  • TRAFFIC: TRAFFIC is a wildlife trade monitoring network that works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC has been working with Asian and African Customs officials for nearly ten years to increase their ability to apprehend smugglers before they reach their final destinations. TRAFFIC also encourages e-commerce companies to conduct further research and monitor the sale of pangolin products in both physical and online markets in China periodically, in order to prevent illegal trade on these platforms to proliferate.
  • ZSL: The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is working to protect pangolins by securing an international trading ban, deploying conservation experts in the field, and disrupting the illegal trade through anti-poaching patrols and training law local enforcement to stabilize pangolin populations.
  • International legal cooperation: There have been calls for greater international legal cooperation and policy coordination between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors to combat the illegal wildlife trade. This includes examining existing legal and policy frameworks in Southeast Asian countries and China, and the extent to which they support more efficient criminal justice responses, interagency coordination, and intergovernmental cooperation in the fight against the multibillion-dollar illegal trade.

In summary, China has collaborated with other countries and international organizations to combat the illegal pangolin trade through initiatives such as CITES, TRAFFIC, ZSL, and international legal cooperation.

However, the effectiveness of these efforts in curbing illegal trade is still a matter of debate, and addressing the demand for pangolin products in China will be crucial for reducing the illegal trade of pangolins and protecting their populations from further decline.

Pangolins in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Pangolins have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries, and are believed to have medicinal properties.

However, the use of pangolin scales in TCM has contributed to the decline of pangolin populations, and the Chinese government has promised to crack down on the trade of pangolin products

Here are some ways that TCM practitioners and organizations are addressing concerns about pangolin use:

  • Removal from TCM Pharmacopoeia: In 2020, China officially removed the pangolin scale from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Pharmacopoeia, which is a list of approved ingredients for use in TCM. This move was seen as a positive step towards reducing the demand for pangolin products in China.
  • Education and awareness: TCM practitioners and organizations are working to educate the public about the impact of pangolin use on pangolin populations, and to promote alternative ingredients for use in TCM. This includes highlighting the availability of synthetic alternatives to pangolin scales, as well as other natural ingredients with similar medicinal properties.
  • Regulation and enforcement: TCM practitioners and organizations are working with the Chinese government to regulate the use of pangolin products in TCM, and to enforce laws and regulations related to the trade of pangolins. This includes cracking down on illegal trade and promoting sustainable practices for the use of pangolin scales in TCM.

TCM practitioners and organizations are taking steps to address concerns about pangolin use, including removal from the TCM Pharmacopoeia, education and awareness, and regulation and enforcement.

However, the effectiveness of these efforts in reducing the demand for pangolin products in China is still a matter of debate, and addressing the demand for pangolin products in China will be crucial for protecting pangolin populations globally.

Economic Incentives and Alternatives

Economic incentives are a major driver of the international trade of pangolins, and understanding these incentives is crucial for developing sustainable alternatives that could reduce this trade.

Here are some key points from the search results:

  • Financial value: Pangolins hold a high financial value along local and international trade, and the financial rewards for all the actors involved in the trade, including transporters, middlemen, and vendors, are a major incentive for the illegal trade of pangolins.
  • Economic development: Increased economic development has led to a rise in the cost of and demand for pangolin scales and meat, which has contributed to the illegal trade of pangolins.
  • Alternative livelihoods: Developing alternative livelihoods for communities that rely on the illegal trade of pangolins could reduce the demand for pangolins and provide sustainable economic alternatives.
  • Synthetic alternatives: Promoting the use of synthetic alternatives to pangolin scales in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) could reduce the demand for pangolins and provide a sustainable alternative.
  • Public awareness: Increasing public awareness about the impact of pangolin use on pangolin populations could reduce the demand for pangolin products and promote sustainable alternatives.

Moreover, economic incentives are a major driver of the international trade of pangolins, and developing sustainable alternatives that address these incentives will be crucial for reducing this trade.

These alternatives could include developing alternative livelihoods, promoting synthetic alternatives to pangolin scales in TCM, and increasing public awareness about the impact of pangolin use on pangolin populations.

Impact on Pangolin Populations

The international trade of pangolins, driven in part by demand in China, has had a significant impact on pangolin populations in source countries.

Here are some consequences of China’s role in the international pangolin trade on pangolin conservation efforts globally:

  • Population decline: The illegal trade of pangolins has contributed to the decline of pangolin populations in source countries, with all four Asian species of pangolin being endangered or critically endangered. The trade in pangolins is now recognized as the most significant impediment to their conservation, for both Asian and African species.
  • Habitat loss: Habitat loss and fragmentation have also contributed to the decline of pangolin populations in source countries.
  • Guangdong Province: Guangdong Province is a key area for wildlife consumption in China and a major distribution center for pangolin smuggling and trade. Over the 1960s, incomplete data from the Department of Medicinal Materials in Guangdong suggested that the annual capture of pangolin was more than 20,000 individuals.
  • Legal efforts: While China has introduced pangolin trade restrictions, the country continues to represent the largest market and destination for pangolin products. The effectiveness of legal efforts to curb the illegal trade of pangolins is still a matter of debate.

In conclusion, China’s role in the international pangolin trade has had a significant impact on pangolin populations in source countries, contributing to their decline and making conservation efforts challenging.

Addressing the demand for pangolin products in China will be crucial for protecting pangolin populations globally.

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