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Concerns mount for Chinese pangolin

By Yang Wanli | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-11 08:53
One of the pangolins rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Hunan last year. [Photo/Xinhua]

Declining population

According to a national wildlife survey conducted by forestry authorities in the 1990s, there were some 60,000 Chinese pangolins in 11 provinces, including Yunnan, Hunan, Guangdong, Sichuan and Zhejiang.

However, in recent years, the number has witnessed a sharp decline due to habitat destruction, rampant poaching and smuggling. In 2017, the International Union for Conservation of Nature placed Chinese pangolins on the Red List of Endangered Species, as a team of experts believed that the population had dropped by 90 percent in the previous decade.

Smugglers have targeted the animal for its scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure for hangovers, to treat liver conditions and help new mothers to breastfeed. Pangolin meat is also high in nutritional value.

The demand for pangolins can be attributed to the high profit to be made from the creatures. A CNN report in 2013 investigated the illegal pangolin trade and found that a poacher could earn $22.50 from a 1-kilogram pangolin.

"Sensing danger, pangolins curl themselves into tight balls instinctively. In the wild, this reflex protects them from predators such as bears and large cats. But they have little defense against wildlife traffickers," Wu said.

In addition to the threat from poachers, the Chinese pangolin is facing challenges from lost habitat due to environmental pollution, commercial logging and urbanization, Wu said.

"All these factors have resulted in the population decline. As the Chinese pangolin only produces one newborn a year, it will take a long time for the species to recover," he said.

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