The most traded wild mammal - the Pangolin - is being eaten to extinction

The Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), one of eight extant pangolins or scaly anteaters as they are also known, was once abundant in China. However, as a result of overexploitation for consumption of its meat and scales, this species is now moving closer to extinction, which is having a devastating impact on the world’s remaining pangolins.

Indian Pangolin 
(Manis crassicaudata)

This was one of the findings from the first-ever global conference on the conservation of pangolins held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature - Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group and co-organized and hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

“Following huge declines in populations of the Chinese Pangolin, trade has mainly involved the Sunda pangolin in recent years, which occurs across Southeast Asia, but pangolins are now being sourced from South Asia and as far as Africa to meet demand in East Asia” said Dan Challender, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group and doctoral candidate studying the trade in pangolins in Asia at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. “They are more than likely the most traded wild mammals globally”.

Over 40 conservationists from 14 countries convened for the conference to map out solutions for the global decline of pangolins and a multi-faceted approach is urgently needed given their declining conservation status worldwide. “Not only do we need to reduce demand for pangolin parts in East Asia, we also need to ensure there are pangolin strongholds where we can ensure the viability of populations in the wild,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, Conservation Programmes Director at the Zoological Society of London and Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group.

Themed ‘Scaling up Pangolin Conservation’, the conference saw the presentation of recent research into understanding demand for pangolins, ecological monitoring and the latest development in captive care, followed by workshops conducted to formulate a conservation strategy for the next decade. This will involve a number of major initiatives including: research into behaviour change to measurably reduce demand for pangolins through social marketing campaigns, assessment of populations in identified strongholds, the strengthening of legislation in East Asian markets and the stepping up of current enforcement efforts in pangolin trade hotspots. However, it will also demand raising awareness about these shy and nocturnal creatures for example, by engaging celebrity support and through publications celebrating the species.
This conference also saw the status of the world’s pangolins re-assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. It was confirmed that populations of each species are in steep decline.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer at Wildlife Reserves Singapore said, “At WRS we were proud to work with the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group to devise these strategic actions, all of which are crucial to ensuring the conservation of pangolins in Africa as well as Asia.”

The conference was made possible by the generous support of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund, the Zoological Society of London, San Antonio Zoo, the Houston Zoo, TRAFFIC, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong. It is part of Wildlife Reserves Conservation Fund’s (WRSCF) efforts to conserve endangered native wildlife. Since its inception in 2009, the Fund has supported various projects and conferences. 

For more information please contact:

Daniel W. Challender
Co-chair, IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group 

Work area: 
Red List
Wildlife trade
West and Central Africa
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