Why pangolins are endangered

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Pangolins are endangered due to a combination of factors, including overhunting, trafficking, habitat loss, and the use of pangolin scales in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Here are some consequences of the international trade of pangolins on pangolin conservation efforts globally:

  • Population decline: All eight species of pangolins are protected under national and international laws, and two are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 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.
  • Habitat loss: Pangolins face habitat loss when humans clear land for agricultural, residential, or transportation purposes. When humans move into these areas, it’s hard for pangolins to thrive, as their food source is wiped out by insect control.

    Some pangolin habitats are disturbed by mining, quarrying, oil drilling, and other types of human activity.
  • Use in TCM: 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. The removal of pangolin scales from the TCM Pharmacopoeia in 2020 was seen as a positive step towards reducing the demand for pangolin products in China.
  • Economic incentives: 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. 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.

In summary, the international trade of pangolins has had a significant impact on pangolin populations globally, contributing to their decline and making conservation efforts challenging.

Addressing the demand for pangolin products in China and developing sustainable alternatives will be crucial for protecting pangolin populations globally.

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Conservation Efforts

Pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammals in the world, and all eight species of pangolins are threatened with extinction.

Conservation efforts to save pangolins from extinction include demand reduction, enforcement, combating trafficking, public education/awareness, community engagement, and conservation planning

These efforts aim to decrease demand for pangolin scales and meat, strengthen agencies that protect pangolins and their habitat, reduce the illegal trade of pangolins, raise the profile of pangolins, work with local communities living adjacent to pangolin habitat, and research pangolins to fill the gaps in knowledge about them.

Conservation organizations are working to protect pangolins through various initiatives.

For example, the Nature Conservancy is working to prevent poaching of pangolins in China through public efforts and partnerships with WildAid

The Zoological Society of London is leading global pangolin conservation work through community work, anti-poaching patrols, and working with key decision makers

Save Pangolins is working to stop the removal of pangolins from the wild, researching pangolin behavior and ecology, training rangers and wildlife authorities, and developing ways to treat and rehabilitate pangolins in captivity.

Despite these efforts, conservation organizations face several challenges in protecting pangolins.

One major obstacle is that most people do not know that pangolins even exist, so public audiences around the world need to be educated about pangolins and their crisis in order to inspire action

Additionally, there is a lack of resources and capacity to implement conservation programs, and low prioritization by governments and local communities to take action

Furthermore, pangolins are secretive, solitary, and mostly nocturnal, so many mysteries remain about their natural history and behavior, and we do not even have a solid estimate of how many pangolins remain in the wild.

Conservation efforts to protect pangolins are ongoing, and they include demand reduction, enforcement, combating trafficking, public education/awareness, community engagement, and conservation planning.

Conservation organizations are working to protect pangolins through various initiatives, but they face challenges such as lack of resources, low prioritization by governments and local communities, and limited knowledge about pangolins.

Illegal Wildlife Trade

The illegal wildlife trade is a major factor driving the endangerment of pangolins.

Pangolins are trafficked for their meat and scales, which are used in traditional medicine and as a luxury food item.

The demand for pangolin products is high in countries like Vietnam and China, as well as in the US.

Criminals have access to the world’s biggest marketplace through e-commerce, social media, and search platforms, enabling them to advertise illegally traded species and process transactions with minimal risk

Despite restrictions on trade in place since 1975, enforcement is not uniformly strong, and most efforts have focused on curbing the supply side of the trade, but demand remains high, and there is a thriving black market.

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Conservation organizations are working to combat the illegal wildlife trade through various initiatives.

For example, the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, launched by WWF, along with partners TRAFFIC and IFAW, is working to unite the tech sector in shutting down this open route for illegal trade

The Zoological Society of London is leading global pangolin conservation work through community work, anti-poaching patrols, and working with key decision-makers.

However, the illegal wildlife trade is a major factor driving the endangerment of pangolins.

The demand for pangolin products is high, and criminals have access to the world’s biggest marketplace through e-commerce, social media, and search platforms.

Conservation organizations are working to combat the illegal wildlife trade through various initiatives, but enforcement is not uniformly strong, and demand remains high.

Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction and fragmentation are significant contributors to the decline of pangolin populations.

The main causes of habitat destruction and fragmentation include deforestation, agriculture, and urbanization.

 These activities lead to the loss and fragmentation of pangolin habitats, which reduces the availability of food and shelter, and increases the risk of predation and exposure to other threats.

Conservation organizations are working to combat habitat destruction and fragmentation through various initiatives.

For example, the Zoological Society of London is working with local communities to promote sustainable land use practices that reduce habitat destruction and fragmentation

The Nature Conservancy is working to protect pangolin habitats in China through partnerships with local communities and government agencies.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation are significant contributors to the decline of pangolin populations.

The main causes of habitat destruction and fragmentation include deforestation, agriculture, and urbanization.

Conservation organizations are working to combat habitat destruction and fragmentation through various initiatives, but more needs to be done to reduce the impact of these activities on pangolin habitats.

Traditional Medicine and Cultural Beliefs

Pangolins are used in traditional medicine and cultural practices in various parts of the world, which contributes to their endangerment.

The use of pangolin scales and body parts in traditional medicine is prevalent in many countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, and China.

The cultural significance of pangolins varies across regions, but they are often believed to have spiritual and healing properties.

Conservation organizations are working to address the use of pangolins in traditional medicine and cultural practices through various initiatives.

For example, the Zoological Society of London is working with local communities to promote alternative sources of medicine and to raise awareness about the impact of pangolin trade on their populations

The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, launched by WWF, along with partners TRAFFIC and IFAW, is working to unite the tech sector in shutting down this open route for illegal trade.

The use of pangolin scales and body parts in traditional medicine and cultural practices is prevalent in many countries, which contributes to their endangerment.

Conservation organizations are working to address this issue through various initiatives, including promoting alternative sources of medicine and raising awareness about the impact of pangolin trade on their populations.

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Scientific Research

Ongoing scientific research on pangolins includes studies on their genomics, behavior, ecology, and physiology.

This research can inform conservation efforts and strategies by providing a better understanding of pangolin populations, their habitat requirements, and the threats they face.

Here are some examples of ongoing scientific research on pangolins:

  • Pangolin genomics: A recent study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution provides a comprehensive set of genomic resources for pangolins. This research can aid in conservation efforts by providing a better understanding of pangolin populations and their genetic diversity.
  • Behavior and ecology: The Zoological Society of London is leading efforts to study pangolins and find practical solutions to the threats they face. This research includes studies on pangolin behavior and ecology, which can inform conservation efforts by providing a better understanding of pangolin habitat requirements and the threats they face.
  • Physiology: A recent study found a “scientific surprise” in pangolin research, revealing that pangolins have a unique immune system that may help them resist infections. This research can inform conservation efforts by providing a better understanding of pangolin physiology and how it may impact their survival.
  • Commercialization and popularization: A systematic review on pangolin research, commercialization, and popularization was conducted to identify knowledge gaps and produce conservation guidelines. This research can inform conservation efforts by providing a better understanding of the factors driving the illegal trade of pangolins and how to combat it.

Ongoing scientific research on pangolins includes studies on their genomics, behavior, ecology, and physiology.

This research can inform conservation efforts and strategies by providing a better understanding of pangolin populations, their habitat requirements, and the threats they face.

Legal Protections

Existing legal frameworks and international agreements are in place to protect pangolins.

These include:

  1. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): All eight species of pangolins are protected under CITES, which prohibits international trade in pangolins for commercial purposes.
  2. U.S.

    Endangered Species Act:
    In 2020, the U.S.

    agreed to decide on pangolin protections under the Endangered Species Act, which would ban import and interstate sale of pangolin parts in the United States, except for scientific or other conservation purposes.
  3. Pelly Amendment: The Pelly Amendment is a U.S.

    law that can be used to force compliance with international programs for endangered or threatened species.

    In 2020, a petition was filed under the Pelly Amendment to protect pangolins.

Despite these legal frameworks and international agreements, pangolins remain threatened due to weak enforcement and lack of resources.

For example, while all eight species of pangolins are protected under CITES, lack of enforcement and light penalties have allowed for unabated poaching and smuggling

Moreover, existing legal frameworks and international agreements are in place to protect pangolins, including CITES, the U.S.

Endangered Species Act, and the Pelly Amendment.

However, weak enforcement and lack of resources remain challenges to the effectiveness of these legal frameworks and international agreements.

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Community Involvement

Local communities play a crucial role in pangolin conservation efforts.

Engaging with local populations is important to protect these endangered animals.

Here are some community-based initiatives and the importance of engaging with local populations to protect pangolins:

  1. Community-based conservation: The National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) in Nepal, with support from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) EDGE Fellowship scheme, is running a community-based pangolin conservation project. The project aims to collect baseline information on ecology, status, distribution, and specific threats facing the Chinese pangolin, and to generate support for their conservation.

    Local villagers are engaged through conservation sub-committees, set up within the existing local administration network.

    Through training workshops, these individuals learn about the Chinese pangolin and the consequences of illegal trade, which they then in turn share with their communities.

    The goal is to tackle widespread ignorance about these increasingly rare animals, and to strengthen community commitment to stop illegal trade.
  2. Community engagement: The Zoological Society of London is working with local communities living adjacent to pangolin habitat to promote pangolin conservation. The goal is to help people achieve their career goals, so they don’t have to work in the illegal wildlife trade.

    The organization is also pioneering two community-managed pangolin conservation areas to protect wild pangolin populations.
  3. Public education and awareness: Save Pangolins is working to educate public audiences around the world about pangolins and their crisis in order to inspire action. The organization is also working to raise awareness about the benefits of pangolin conservation among communities and local officials so that they can become involved in conservation action.

In conclusion, local communities play a crucial role in pangolin conservation efforts.

Community-based initiatives, community engagement, and public education and awareness are important to protect these endangered animals.

Engaging with local populations is crucial to ensure the success of pangolin conservation efforts.

Helpful Resources