First ever pangolin conference concludes all eight species in trouble

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
July 23, 2013



Demand for scales, meat, and even fetuses of pangolins have pushed all eight species of this unique mammalian order—Pholidota—toward extinction, according to the world's first ever pangolin conference with the International Union for Conservation of Nature - Species Survival Commission (IUCN-SSC) Pangolin Specialist Group. Meeting in Singapore earlier this month, 40 conservationists from 14 countries discussed the plight of these little-known scaly mammals and how to turn around their global decline.

Although known as 'scaly anteaters,' pangolins are actually a group of termite-eating mammals that stand alone: according to genetics, their closest relatives are not anteaters, but carnivores. Nocturnal and shy, these mammals have long been elusive to scientists. But across much of East Asia, pangolins are in high demand. Although trading them is illegal, their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine; their meat is openly sold; and even their fetuses are eaten in a soup delicacy.

"They are more than likely the most traded wild mammals globally," explains Dan Challender, Co-Chair of the IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. "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."

Sunda pangolin in Borneo.
Sunda pangolin listed as Endangered in Borneo. Photo by: Piekfrosch/GNU Free Documentation License.
Four species of pangolin are found in Asia and four in Africa. Both the Chinese and Sunda pangolin are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, while the other six species are in lower categories. Still, new evidence presented at the meeting will likely place the other six species in higher-risk categories as well.

Experts at the meeting noted that law enforcement and sentencing must be stepped up to deal with the crisis.

"Enforcement efforts should not end at seizures—they are only the first of several steps needed to dismantle wildlife smuggling rings," Chris R. Shepherd, Director of Southeast Asia TRAFFIC, an organization that works to fight the global wildlife trade. "Agencies must be proactive, weeding out the ringleaders behind smuggling operations and putting them out of business. Investigators and prosecutors must also prepare thoroughly so that when cases are presented in court they are strong enough for the judge to make a ruling fitting the crime."

Worryingly, findings at the conference showed that the Chinese pangolin was already likely extinct in China, although still found in other parts in Asia.

"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 (ZSL) and Co-Chair of the IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group.

Experts have estimated that the global illegal wildlife trade is now worth $19 billion and is decimating species worldwide, including charismatic animals like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and sharks, as well as thousands of lesser-known species.



The World's Pangolin Species

Asian species

Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), Near Threatened

Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), Near Threatened

Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Endangered

Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), Endangered

African species

Giant pangolin (Manis gigantea), Least Concern

Ground pangolin (Manis temminckii), Least Concern

Tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis), Near Threatened

Long-tailed pangolin (Manis tetradactyla), Least Concern















AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.




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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 23, 2013).

First ever pangolin conference concludes all eight species in trouble.

http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0723-hance-pangolin-conference.html