Over the past decade, nearly 6,000 rhinos have been killed for their horns — primarily in South Africa, where 5,098 were poached between 2005 and 2015 to supply a lucrative black market. Yet this week at the world’s largest-ever wildlife trade conference, some officials continue to advocate for legalizing the rhino horn trade.
Good news! Today, the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has voted to protect all eight species of pangolins - small and reclusive scaly mammals being driven to near extinction by unsustainable poaching. Pangolins will be uplisted to CITES Appendix I, which bars international trade and provides for better domestic protection in key countries such as Vietnam and China.
"Rarely has CITES been so united. This action today was much-needed if pangolins are to survive and may be one of the most important outcomes of this meeting," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said from the CITES Conference of the Parties in Johannesburg. "That these proposals to protect pangolins came from countries like Vietnam and were passed with near-unanimous support is highly encouraging. The challenge now is law enforcement and demand reduction, but the uplisting will help both. Penalties will now be much higher in key countries."
WildAid is already engaged in reducing demand in China and Vietnam in celebrity led campaigns and has released footage of pangolin capture and trade. Its report Pangolins: On the Brinkidentifies consumer demand for pangolin scales and meat as the primary driver of the eight pangolin species' sharp decline throughout Africa and Asia.
Demand for pangolin scales (used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) as well as pangolin meat, considered by some as a delicacy, is highest in China and Vietnam. Though there is no scientific evidence to support alleged curative properties or the keratin scales, a 2015 WildAid survey found that 70% of Chinese believe pangolin products have medicinal value; scales are used to "cure" rheumatism, skin disorders and wound infections. In Vietnam, 64% of survey respondents said they had heard about the "curative" properties of pangolin scales.
Though banned for over 20 years as traditional medicine in China, rhino horn consumption has recently surged in countries such as Vietnam, where horn powder is marketed as a “cancer cure” to desperate patients who lack access to adequate medical care. It’s also used as a non-traditional “recreational drug” and hangover cure. Despite these new uses, rhino horn has no unique medical properties and is primarily composed of keratin, the same protein found in human hair and fingernails.
“Say No to Rhino Horn,” a three-year project of WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and the Vietnamese nonprofit organization CHANGE, is working to dispel widespread myths of rhino horn’s potency by partnering with influential celebrities, entrepreneurs, media partners and religious leaders.
Over the past few months, our Vietnam team organized a nationwide effort to build support among Buddhist communities in speaking out against rhino horn trafficking and consumption. Supported by some of Vietnam’s most-respected monks, the campaign has attracted over 14,000 Buddhists across Vietnam, and has been featured on dozens of Buddhist popular media channels such as Giac Ngo (Buddhist Enlightenment) newspaper and Hoang Phap pagoda website.
SAN FRANCISCO (September 21, 2016) — Pangolins, the small, reclusive mammals unique for their armor of overlapping scales, are being driven to near extinction by unsustainable poaching and need stronger international protections in order to survive, according to a new WildAid report and dramatic video of pangolin poaching and trafficking released Wednesday.
WildAid’s new report, Pangolins on the Brink, identifies consumer demand for pangolin scales and meat as the primary driver of the eight pangolin species’ sharp decline throughout Africa and Asia. Despite this, pangolins are not protected under Appendix I of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits commercial trade. Officials will consider multiple proposals that call for uplisting pangolins to Appendix I at the CITES Conference of the Parties 17, which begins Friday in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It may come as a surprise to most people that the world’s most illegally traded mammal — far surpassing the poaching and trafficking rates of elephants, rhinos and other high-profile species — is a solitary, nocturnal, scale-covered creature they’ve likely never heard of: the pangolin, commonly known as the “scaly anteater.”