Pangolin Survival Imperiled: China Pushes Exports On Traditional Medicines
Pangolins, critically endangered and the world’s most trafficked animals, face risk of extinction as China plans to expand its exports in traditional medicine.
Photo: Dushy Ranetunge
Despite efforts by wildlife conservationists at an international scale, the increase in demand for traditional Chinese medicine has expedited the global trade of pangolin parts. Unfortunately, these medicines are promoted blatantly by the government.
Conservationists fear that China’s recent decision to export traditional medicine at a global scale, as a part of its Belt and Road Investment Plan will spell doom for the already threatened species.
Though international trade in all eight pangolin species is banned, that in no way deters China to curb its domestic trade. But, to facilitate this trade, trafficking of Pangolins from Asia and Africa continues unabated. This trafficking is carried out through secret pangolin farms in China, that according to experts is nothing more than fronts for illegal wildlife trade activities, reports The Washington Post. This trade feeds the market in China, as pangolin scales continue to sell at an alarming rate. Believed to have medicinal values, the scales are said to cure a wide range of ailments, including rheumatism, wound infections, skin disorders, coronary heart disease and cancer. The sale of powdered scale caters to a demand from mothers to help them lactate, while pangolin blood and fetuses are consumed by men who believe it increases virility. Unscientific in these claims, pangolin scales are in fact made of keratin- a fibrous protein that hair, feathers, claws and hoofs consist of.
China recently sparked controversy at a CITES conference, averring its right to purchase stockpiles of scales from other countries. “Authorities claim to have a stockpile from which they supply hospitals and pharmacies with 26 tons of scales every year but offer no transparency about that process, effectively legitimizing the entire smuggling trade” – reports The Washington Post. Scott Roberton of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Vietnam says it is hard to convince Asian governments of the importance of saving pangolins, as compared to elephants, rhinos and tigers.
Consumer demand is the root of the problem which needs to be urgently tackled. The people who initiate the demand for medicines and exotic meat, need to realize the urgency of the situation and rely on alternative options that do not threaten critically endangered species like the Chinese and Sunda Pangolins.
“Traditional Chinese medicine should be a healing force for good, but not at the expense of animal cruelty or the extinction of species,” said Iris Ho, wildlife program manager at Humane Society International to The Washington Post.
Source: The Washington Post