An actress popular in China has teamed up with WildAid for the fourth time, the latest effort aimed at debunking the belief that pangolin scales increase lactation for nursing mothers. Made mostly of keratin, pangolin scales contain the same protein found in human hair and fingernails.
“Motherly love is something truly special but it should not lead to the death of wildlife,” said Angela Yeung Wing, popularly known by her star name Angelababy. “I don’t use pangolin scales, and want to encourage other moms to do the same.”
In the new public awareness video and billboard, Angelababy cradles a pangolin with the message, “baby pangolins need their mothers too.” The campaign will appear on social media, television, and billboards across China over the coming months.
Despite an absence of scientific evidence supporting the alleged healing properties, many people in China and Vietnam believe pangolin products also “cure” rheumatism, skin disorders and wound infections.
Earlier this year, WildAid hosted a conference in Hong Kong, where traditional medicine experts informed the world that there are plenty of alternatives to pangolin scales. The conference also highlighted the impracticality of trying to breed pangolins commercially, a controversial idea proposed as a way to maintain a supply of scales needed for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine practice.
The demand for scales is having devastating impacts on wild pangolin populations, which have fallen by 94 percent since the 1960s. Once abundant in China, the Chinese Pangolin has now disappeared from most of its habitat.
China says it legally uses pangolin scales sourced from a government stockpile. However, questions about the stockpile’s size and source have arisen given the lack of import records for pangolin scales.
It’s believed that with pangolin populations in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia severely depleted in recent years, shipments from Africa now make up a significant portion of the illegal trade. Since 2017, over 60 tonnes of scales have been seized in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and China, most en route to China.
“The question is: where are China’s pangolin scales coming from and are they legally sourced?” says WildAid Chief Programs Officer John Baker. “As a leader in wildlife conservation, China has an opportunity to do what they did with ivory – ban the use of pangolin scales in medicines and save pangolins before they go extinct.”
WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages nearly $230 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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