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The trade of African pangolins to Asia: a brief case study of pangolin shipments from Nigeria

Authors:
  • Monitor Conservation Research Society
  • Monitor Conservation Research Society
N E W S
TRAFFIC Bulletin Vol. 28 No. 1 (2016) 3
Occurring exclusively in Africa
and Asia, pangolins are among
the most heavily illegally traded
mammals in the world. Popular
for their meat and for the
purported medicinal qualities of their scales
(Challender and Hywood, 2012; Boakye et
al., 2015; Shepherd et al., 2016), they are a
much sought-after commodity, both locally
and internationally, despite the protective
measures that are in place in most countries in
which they occur. With China and Viet Nam
the key consumers of pangolin derivatives,
international trade has historically conned
itself to the Asian continent. However, recent
seizures data suggest that the trafcking of
African pangolin species to meet Asian demand
is on the rise. Their mounting occurrence
on the international market is alarming and
has been attributed to a drastic decline in the
four Asian species and increasing economic
ties between East Asia and African countries
(Challender and Hywood, 2012; Challender,
2015; Nijman et al., 2015; Shepherd et al.,
2016). While it has long been suspected that
inter-continental pangolin trade occurs, and
the possibility of such a trade was raised in
Bräutigam et al. (1994), there has been little
study of its scope and scale. Challender and
Hywood (2012) rst shed light on the potential
threats such trade may pose to African
pangolins based on an analysis of seizures
data of the four species between 2000 and
2012. Since then, the number of incidents has
not increased in a noteworthy way (in fact the
number of seizures may seem low to the casual
observer). However, this observation may be
misleading, for the quantities of seized goods
have risen tremendously. Between 2000 and
2012, the weight of scales seized in a single
incident ranged from one kilogramme to ca.
200 kg (Challender and Hywood, 2012). These
numbers now commonly range from 250 kg
to 2000 kg. This short note aims to provide a
concise overview of these worrying ndings
in respect of Nigeria, and to highlight the
importance of further research into the shifting
trends in the international pangolin trade.
Case Study: Nigeria to Asia
The recent spate of inter-continental pangolin
trade originating from Nigeria warranted closer
scrutiny of the country’s potential role as an
important African export hub. Seizures data of
pangolin shipments originating in Nigeria were
collected and analysed for the period 2011 to
2015. These data were obtained from media
reports and the TRAFFIC database. Nine
Fig. 1. Trade routes of pangolin shipments from Nigeria to
Asia, and volumes, 2012.
Fig. 3. Trade routes of pangolin shipments from Nigeria to
Asia, and volumes, 2015.
Fig. 2. Trade routes of pangolin shipments from Nigeria to
Asia, and volumes, 2014.
The trade of African pangolins to Asia:
a brief case study of pangolin shipments from Nigeria
2000
KG
N E W S
4 TRAFFIC Bulletin Vol. 28 No. 1 (2016)
N E W S
Date Location Destination Items seized Quantity (kg) Source
15 May 2012 China China Scales/meat* 1230/3000 Anon, 2012a
7 December 2012 China China Scales 50 Anon, 2012b
2 July 2014 France Lao PDR Scales 250 Anon, 2014
16 January 2015 China China Scales 2000 Anon, 2015a
17 March 2015 Hong Kong Hong Kong Scales 2000 Anon, 2015b
27 March 2015 China China Scales 249 Anon, 2015c
7 April 2015 China China Scales 25 Anon, 2015c
10 December 2015 Thailand Lao PDR Scales* 587 Anon, 2015d
12 December 2015 Singapore Lao PDR Scales* 324 Heng, 2015
Table 1. Seizure records of pangolin shipments originating from Nigeria, 2011–2015.
*seized shipments that also contained elephant ivory
records of seizures of pangolin shipments originating in
Nigeria were found (Table 1).
Two seizures took place in 2012, one of which was
exceptionally large (involving 3000 kg of pangolin meat,
1230 kg of scales and 225 kg of ivory) (Fig. 1). Another
large seizure of 250 kg of scales took place in 2014
(Fig. 2). However, the majority of seizures occurred in
2015, with six incidents totalling no less than 5185 kg of
scales (Fig. 3), suggesting that the pangolin trade from
Nigeria is substantive. No seizure records were found
for 2011 and 2013 (although it should be noted that in
Challender and Hywood (2012) there is one record of a
2011 seizure in China involving scales and meat from
Nigeria). In all incidents, pangolin scales were the main
item seized, with the exception of the aforementioned
2012 seizure in which a large amount of pangolin meat
was also seized. Interestingly, this seizure included ivory.
In two other cases, pangolin derivatives were shipped
along with large quantities of elephant ivory. These
incidents took place in December 2012 in Singapore and
Thailand, where Lao PDR-bound pangolin shipments
were found to include a total of 563 elephant tusks.
No pre-2012 records of mixed shipments coming from
Africa were found in the database (post-2012 data
include reports of mixed shipments from other African
countries as well, most notably in 2015 a large Ugandan
seizure of 2000 kg of scales and 700 kg of ivory destined
for Europe took place), implying such shipments have
either not previously occurred, or have gone undetected.
The seizures that took place during the study period
occurred in China (ve recorded incidents), France
(one recorded incident, although it must be noted that
many more African pangolin shipments, originating in
different countries, have been seized in France over the
years), Hong Kong (one recorded incident), Thailand
(one recorded incident) and Singapore (one recorded
incident), with China, Hong Kong and Lao PDR being
the designated destinations. In all but one case (a 2015
Shanghai seizure involving 25 kg of scales), the quantity
of seized pangolin derivatives was very large, ranging
from between 250 kg and 4230 kg. In most cases, the
pangolin parts were shipped by air, either in passengers’
luggage or freight. The one exception was a shipment
by sea that was seized in Hong Kong in March 2015
involving 2000 kg of scales.
The recorded incidents are worrying. While it is still
uncertain whether Nigeria functions as a source or a
transit country in the inter-continental pangolin trade, it
is clear that Asian demand has become a serious threat to
the survival of African pangolin species, and that Nigeria
is a signicant part of the illegal trade chain.
Recommendations
All four African pangolin species (Black-bellied Pangolin
Phataginus tetradactyla, White-bellied Pangolin P. tricuspis,
Gant Pangolin Smutsia gigantea and Temminck’s Ground
Pangolin S. temminckii) are currently classied as
Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
(Pietersen et al., 2014; Waterman et al., 2014a; Waterman
et al., 2014b; Waterman et al., 2014c). International trade
in pangolins is likely to be having a detrimental effect
on population levels, although such pressure remains
unquantied due to the paucity of research carried out on
pangolins, and the lack of published information. Further
investigation into the source, scale and extent of trade
ows of African pangolins to Asia is desperately needed
if we are to clamp down on this illicit trade, inform future
policy decisions, and identify priority actions to aid in
their conservation. Further research is also needed on
the apparently novel occurrence of mixed shipments of
pangolin and ivory. This brief case study also highlights
the need to establish more effective protection measures
for African pangolin species. All species of pangolin are
listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES), such that all international trade is regulated
through the issuance of export permits. While a zero
export quota has been established for the four Asian
pangolin species, their African counterparts are subject
to no such quota. This is particularly worrying in light
of the uncertainty concerning current population sizes
of all four African species (Souwu and Ayodele, 2009;
Pietersen et al., 2014; Boakye et al., 2015). Moreover, it
is highly debateable whether the establishment of a zero
quota should be considered an effective conservation
tool in the rst place, seeing how it has not been able to
put a halt to the trade in the Asian species (Challender
et al., 2015). Transferral of all eight pangolin species
from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I should
therefore be seriously considered.
N E W S
TRAFFIC Bulletin Vol. 28 No. 1 (2016) 5
acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Dan Challender for his
helpful review of this paper; they would also like to thank
an anonymous donor for generously funding their work
on pangolins.
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Lalita Gomez, Programme Ofcer, TRAFFIC
E-mail: Lalita.gomez@trafc.org
Boyd T.C. Leupen, Consultant
E-mail: Leupen.boyd@gmail.com
Tiau Kiu Hwa, Data-entry and Research Ofcer, TRAFFIC
E-mail: Tiau.KiuHwa@trafc.org
A group of White-bellied Pangolins Phataginus tricuspis
(adult male and female encircling a juvenile pangolin),
Nigeria.
DUROJAYE A SOEWU (PH.D)
... [4], Tê tê vàng Manis pentadactyla [5] và Tê tê phi-lip-pin Manis culionensis [6]), ba loài ở bậc Nguy cấp (EN) (Tê tê ấn độ Manis crassicaudata [7], Tê tê đất khổng lồ Smutsia gigantea [8] và Tê tê bụng trắng Phataginus tricuspis [9]) và hai loài ở bậc Sắp nguy cấp (VU) (Tê tê bụng đen Phataginus tetradactyla [10] và Tê tê đất Temminck Smutsia temminckii [11] [12]. Một trong những nhân tố đe dọa đến các loài tê tê là săn bắt và buôn bán bất hợp pháp với số lượng lớn ở châu Á. Trong khi ở châu Phi, chúng bị săn bắt chủ yếu để làm thực phẩm, vảy buôn bán sang châu Á làm dược liệu cổ truyền [15][16][17][18]. Do đó, quần thể của các loài tê tê đang suy giảm nghiêm trọng và được cho là bị tuyệt chủng cục bộ ở một số khu vực của cả châu Á và châu Phi [15,19]. ...
... Một trong những nhân tố đe dọa đến các loài tê tê là săn bắt và buôn bán bất hợp pháp với số lượng lớn ở châu Á. Trong khi ở châu Phi, chúng bị săn bắt chủ yếu để làm thực phẩm, vảy buôn bán sang châu Á làm dược liệu cổ truyền [15][16][17][18]. Do đó, quần thể của các loài tê tê đang suy giảm nghiêm trọng và được cho là bị tuyệt chủng cục bộ ở một số khu vực của cả châu Á và châu Phi [15,19]. Trong thập kỷ qua, hàng tấn vảy tê tê và thịt đã bị tịch thu trên toàn thế giới mỗi năm và những hồ sơ thu giữ có khả năng chỉ chiếm một phần nhỏ trong giao dịch bất hợp pháp có liên quan tới tê tê [3,20,21]. ...
... Từ tháng 4 đến tháng 7 năm 2019, có 37,6 tấn vảy tê tê bị hải quan Singapore thu giữ khi đang trên đường vận chuyển đến Việt Nam [24]. Ngày 31/3/2020, Cục Hải quan Malaysia đã thu giữ 6.160 kg vảy tê tê cất giấu trong một container có dán mác hạt điều, trị giá 18 triệu USD trong đợt kiểm tra tại cảng Klang [15]. ...
Article
To support law enforcement related to illegal wildlife trafficking in Vietnam, DNA analyses have been widely used to identify species based on products seized from the trade. Pangolins are one of the most threatened mammal groups in Vietnam and across the world because they have been trafficked in huge numbers and considered the most traded mammals globally. Although the government and management agencies have implemented several deterrent measures to reduce the illicit trade of pangolins, a high number of violations with large seizures have still been detected in recent years in the country. Species identification of pangolin products is often challenging, as many products don’t have sufficient morphological diagnoses, especially their meat, hair, and scale. In this study, we present a protocol, which can be applied in laboratories in Vietnam, for extracting and amplifying a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase subunit 1 (COI) from pangolin’s scales and hairs. This protocol was successfully employed to generate a fragment the COI gene from 10 confiscated pangolin samples. The results show for the first time that three samples originated from an African pangolin species and highlight the importance of applying molecular approaches to combating wildlife trafficking in Vietnam.
... Nigeria, home to three of the four African pangolin species, has been identified as a major transit country for trafficking wildlife productsespecially pangolin scales and ivorybetween Africa and Asia (Gomez and Leupen, 2016;Omifolaji et al., 2020;UNODC, 2020b). Nigeria is Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which, through its Appendix I listing (effective from January 2017), prohibits international commercial trade of wild-caught pangolins and their derivatives. ...
... A comprehensive assessment of Nigeria's involvement in pangolin trafficking is thus important for informing effective law enforcement and policy development efforts for pangolins and numerous other wild species also threatened by trans-national illegal trade. Previous studies on Nigeria's preeminent role in pangolin trafficking (Gomez and Leupen, 2016;Omifolaji et al., 2020) were either limited in scope (for example; not explicitly quantifying pangolin trade linked to Nigeria) or temporal scale (i.e., omitting reported trafficking incidents in 2010 when the first pangolin seizure linked to Nigeria was documented). In this study, we combine quantitative and qualitative analyses to characterise and quantify Nigeria's role in pangolin trafficking from January 2010 to September 2021. ...
... Nigeria's involvement in the global illegal pangolin trade, probably first documented in 2012 (Challender and Hywood, 2012), has changed from the trade origin of pangolin shipments to East Asia (Gomez and Leupen, 2016) to a more complex and dynamic role of receiving and possibly stockpiling pangolin derivatives obtained from Central and other West African countries, prior to large-scale shipment to Asia. Almost all the reported seized shipments were of scales, most of which have recently been transported by sea; a change from air transport, which was more common in 2010-2015 (Gomez and Leupen, 2016;Heinrich et al., 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibits commercial trans-national trade in pangolin specimens. However, African pangolins are continually trafficked to Asia for traditional medicine, with Nigeria considered a key hub. Using reported Nigeria-linked pangolin seizure data and interviews with Nigerian law enforcement officials, we a) characterised Nigeria's involvement in global pangolin trafficking January 2010–September 2021, particularly observing trafficking trends after pangolin's CITES Appendix I listing; b) estimated the minimum number of pangolins whose scales are in Nigeria-linked seizures January 2010–September 2021, and; c) assessed ongoing efforts within Nigeria to curb pangolin trafficking. Nigeria-linked seizures involved 190,407 kg of pangolin derivatives (99.9% scales) from a minimum of 799,343 pangolins (95% confidence interval; 625,944-996,353) of four species (see caveats in Methods). All shipments confiscated in transit were destined for Asia, with a rapid increase in the mass of maritime shipments over time. Furthermore, stockpiling of pangolin derivatives for overseas shipment is perhaps a prominent trafficking model in Nigeria. Nigeria's law enforcement efforts improved from 2017, the same year Nigeria apparently began playing a hub role. The impact of pangolin's CITES Appendix I listing on pangolin trafficking was unclear, as the marked rise in seizures from 2017 when the listing became effective, coincided with improvements in Nigerian law enforcement efforts. COVID-19–induced travel restrictions likely reduced trafficking activities in 2020 but activities may have fully resumed in 2021. This study provides new information to inform effective enforcement and policy formulation efforts to protect African pangolins.
... The pangolin (Manidae), a protected family of scaly anteaters have in the last five years become the most globally trafficked vertebrates [16,17]. Despite being prohibited from trade in most parts and being listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) [18,19], all pangolin species which have been described, four from Sub-Saharan Africa and four from Asia [20][21][22], are all threatened by continuous demand for illegal trade largely from Southeast Asian markets [23,24]. Pangolins are presently experiencing astronomical decline across its ranges and face extinction risk due to habitat degradation, hunting, and sustained trafficking for international trade, which threatens their survival. ...
... Nigeria is home to three (White-Bellied Pangolin: Phataginus tricuspis; Black-Bellied Pangolin: Phataginus tetradactyla; and Giant Ground Pangolin: Smutsia gigantea) of the four pangolin species inhabited Afrotropical forest of the Sub Saharan Africa which are exploited for game (or bushmeat), and ethnomedicinal uses [20,[28][29][30][31][32][33]. The last five years have marked an upswing demand from international markets, increasing frequency of pangolin poaching incidents, and seizures reported across and outside Nigeria [24,34]. This has led to local depletion and habitat destruction of pangolin population across many West and Central African states including Nigeria [17,19,22,[35][36][37], resulting in low population density and low encounter rate, especially with habitat specialist species across Africa. ...
... Furthermore, Nigeria has been presently identified as the hub for smuggled pangolin scales in Africa and the world [9,46]. Wildlife syndicates are using various way of moving Pangolin from Africa to Asia, concealing the scales in cargo containers with legitimate products or mixing them with other items, such as cashew, charcoal, wood logs, and metal scraps [13,24]. The syndicates also adopt a variety of methods such as parcel delivery, airfreight, and sea [47]. ...
... The pangolin (Manidae), a protected family of scaly anteaters have in the last five years become the most globally trafficked vertebrates [16,17]. Despite being prohibited from trade in most parts and being listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) [18,19], all pangolin species which have been described, four from Sub-Saharan Africa and four from Asia [20][21][22], are all threatened by continuous demand for illegal trade largely from Southeast Asian markets [23,24]. Pangolins are presently experiencing astronomical decline across its ranges and face extinction risk due to habitat degradation, hunting, and sustained trafficking for international trade, which threatens their survival. ...
... Nigeria is home to three (White-Bellied Pangolin: Phataginus tricuspis; Black-Bellied Pangolin: Phataginus tetradactyla; and Giant Ground Pangolin: Smutsia gigantea) of the four pangolin species inhabited Afrotropical forest of the Sub Saharan Africa which are exploited for game (or bushmeat), and ethnomedicinal uses [20,[28][29][30][31][32][33]. The last five years have marked an upswing demand from international markets, increasing frequency of pangolin poaching incidents, and seizures reported across and outside Nigeria [24,34]. This has led to local depletion and habitat destruction of pangolin population across many West and Central African states including Nigeria [17,19,22,[35][36][37], resulting in low population density and low encounter rate, especially with habitat specialist species across Africa. ...
... Furthermore, Nigeria has been presently identified as the hub for smuggled pangolin scales in Africa and the world [9,46]. Wildlife syndicates are using various way of moving Pangolin from Africa to Asia, concealing the scales in cargo containers with legitimate products or mixing them with other items, such as cashew, charcoal, wood logs, and metal scraps [13,24]. The syndicates also adopt a variety of methods such as parcel delivery, airfreight, and sea [47]. ...
Article
Full-text available
We summarize and characterize the emerging role of Nigeria in transcontinental illegal pangolin shipments from Sub-Saharan Africa to Asia from 2012 to 2019 using public online news reports data. The findings indicate that 57 seizure incidents were predominantly pangolin scales as reported from the findings and the equivalent of 462,092 individual pangolins trafficked from Nigeria. Also, findings reveal that China and Vietnam constitute 65 % of pangolin incidents reported. A peak was reached in 2018 for pangolin incidents, and Nigeria also serves as a transit route to Cameroon. We concluded that Lagos plays a crucial role in pangolin shipments to Asia.
... Illegal killing, quantitative trade estimate, and impacts are difficult to estimate using traditional data collection methods and analysis, as data on illegal wildlife trade are inherently incomplete (Rosen and Smith 2010;Phelps et al. 2016). Trade records such as those in CITES, and LEMIS databases are the primary source of information on many species in trade, though some species such as elephants have specialist portals (ETIS) (Gomez et al. 2016). Data is sometimes obtainable through law enforcement offices, Bureaus of Statistics, governmental agencies, non-government organizations (e.g., EIA, WWF, TRAFFIC), or designated databases system for high profile species (e.g., Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) (Underwood et al. 2013;Haas and Ferreira 2016). ...
Article
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Wildlife trafficking poses a major threat to global biodiversity. Species such as pangolins are particularly vulnerable and trade continues almost unabated despite numerous interventions aimed at eradicating illegal wildlife trade. Despite restrictions on the pangolin trade, thousands of pangolins continue to be intercepted annually. We focused on China because of the recent delisting of pangolins from the Chinese pharmacopeia, and their removal from healthcare insurance, despite deeply ingrained traditions of having pangolins for ethno-medicinal use. We collated pangolin interception data from public online media seizure reports to characterize the pangolin trade within China, and found that a total of 326 independent seizures equivalent to 143,130 pangolins (31,676 individuals and 222,908 kg of scale) were reported in 26 provinces. Pangolin domestic seizures are greatest in the southern cities of Dehong, Fangchenggang, and Guangzhou. Also, we found 17 countries within the global pangolins range which were the major source of the pangolin shipments to China. The number of arrests and convictions was much lower than the number of pangolin incidents reported. Our results show a significant increase in the volume of scales and number of live pangolin seizures after amended endangered species law came into effect in 2018, and recorded the highest number of individual pangolin interceptions. China has shown increasing wildlife seizures over time, owing partly to emergent trends in the international wildlife trade as well as increasing global demand for ethnomedicine. The future eradication of illegal wildlife trade in China is dependent not only on stringent border control and offender prosecution but also the; removal of other threatened species from the pharmacopeia and healthcare insurance which includes wildlife derivatives. Furthermore, our work highlights importance of current policy intervention to combat the pangolin trade within China, and the need for further interventions both within China and in export countries.
... For example, the legal bear bile trade in China alone is valued at USD1 billion a year and a variety of bear bile products (pills, powders, ointments, wines, tea, etc) were created to stimulate market demand (WAP 2020). Viewed as highly valuable commodities, species are hunted to the brink of their existence and as one species dwindles, it is replaced by another e.g. with wild tigers in Asia near depletion, lions in Africa, jaguars in South America and leopards worldwide are increasingly targeted as traditional medicine substitutes (Coals et al. 2020;Morgan et al. 2021); similarly, pangolins in Asia have deteriorated significantly due to over harvesting for meat and medicine which has resulted in shifting poaching efforts to African pangolins to meet demand in Asia Gomez et al. 2016). Exacerbating the issue is captive breeding of wildlife for commercial trade, such as tigers and bears, which is arguably of little conservation value as wild caught animals are known to be laundered and trafficked through such facilities, and further stimulates demand and trade in highly threatened species (Livingstone et al. 2018;Four Paws 2020;WFFT 2020). ...
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Indonesia is home to five species of porcupines, three of which are island endemics. While all five species are currently assessed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, impacts of harvest and trade have not been factored in. To gain a fuller understanding of the porcupine trade in Indonesia, this study examines seizure data of porcupines, their parts and derivatives from January 2013 to June 2020. A total of 39 incidents were obtained amounting to an estimated 452 porcupines. Various confiscated commodities revealed porcupines are traded for consumption, traditional medicine, trophies/charms as well as for privately run wildlife/recreational parks. Targeted hunting of porcupines for commercial international trade was also evident. Porcupines are also persecuted as agricultural pests and wildlife traffickers take advantage of such situations to procure animals for trade. What clearly emerges from this study is that porcupines are being illegally hunted and exploited throughout their range in Indonesia facilitated by poor enforcement and legislative weakness. Porcupines are in decline due to habitat loss, retaliatory killings and uncontrolled poaching. It is therefore crucial that effective conservation measures are taken sooner rather than later to prevent further depletion of these species. Including all porcupines as protected species under Indonesian wildlife laws and listing them in Appendix II of CITES to improve regulation, enforcement and monitoring of domestic and international trade trends involving porcupines in Indonesia would contribute significantly towards this end.
... As populations started dwindling in the Southeast Asian region, there was a notable shift in the trafficking of pangolins from South Asia (e.g. India, Nepal) and Africa (Challender et al., 2016;Gomez et al., 2016;Heinrich et al., 2016) to meet demand. ...
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Throughout the range of bears in Asia, a combination of threats - loss of suitable habitat, increasing human conflict, illegal wildlife trade - are pushing bear populations towards extinction. But studies in Asia are showing that indiscriminate poaching and illegal trade are increasingly becoming the main driver of species extinctions. Here we examine seizure data and poaching incidents involving India’s bear species from 2009 to 2019 to assess the extent illegal wildlife trade is impacting bear populations in the country. The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) systematically collects data on poaching and seizures of protected species which is collated, categorised and stored in WPSI’s database on wildlife crime. Using this data, we assessed bear species impacted by trade, mapped out important trade and poaching hubs, and trade dynamics involving bears in India. Seizure data indicated the exploitation of Asiatic black bears for traditional medicine use while sloth bears were coveted for their skins. Poaching incidents predominantly involved sloth bears and steadily increased over the study period. However, it is unclear whether this is a result of targeted hunting of bears for trade, a threat possibly exacerbated by declining bear species elsewhere in Asia where demand still persists for bear gall bladder and parts; or in response to growing levels of human-bear conflict which is on the rise in India due to loss of suitable habitat and increasing human encroachment into forested areas. This study shows that despite being a strictly protected species in India, there is still a threat to bears from illegal trade. Greater effort is needed to protect bear habitat and reduce retaliatory killing of bears which impedes conservation efforts to reduce the illegal exploitation of bears for trade. Enforcement capacity and resources also need to be improved and must encompass intelligence-led investigations and cross-border cooperation between enforcement agencies to target buyers and traders. The trade in bears and their parts should be consistently monitored on a national scale to support effective law enforcement interventions and conservation initiatives to reduce the levels of poaching of bears in India.
... All eight species of pangolin are globally threatened due to both local demands in pangolin range states and increasing international demands for pangolin scales in parts of Asia (IUCN, 2019). Judging by the current evidence, pangolin populations occurring in China seem to be commercially extinct and the local demand increasingly seeks pangolins in other parts of Asia or in Africa (Pantel & Anak, 2010;Challender & Hywood, 2012;Gomez & Leupen, 2016;Challender & Waterman, 2017;Mambeya et al., 2018). Ingram et al. (2018) suggest that between 0.42 and 2.71 million pangolins were killed annually in West and Central Africa in the sampled period 1975-2014 leading to the increase of hunted pangolins over time in markets. ...
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... The incessant demand for and high commercial value of wildlife as pets, food, traditional medicines, luxury goods, ornaments, trophies, etc. is driving the declines and extinctions of an ever-expanding list of species (Harrison et al. 2016;Voigt et al. 2018;Stanford et al. 2020). Tigers, for example, coveted for traditional medicinal use and trophies, are on the brink of extinction (Wong and Krishnasamy 2019), and depletion of Asian pangolin species has resulted in the over-harvesting and illegal trafficking of African pangolins in tremendous volumes (Challender et al. 2016;Gomez et al. 2016;Heinrich et al. 2016). Lesser studied species such as tortoises and freshwater turtles, amphibians and songbirds are being silently extinguished for the exotic pet trade (Auliya et al. 2016;Lee et al. 2016;Nijman et al. 2019;Shepherd et al. 2019;Stanford et al. 2020). ...
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To track the illegal pangolin trade from Africa to Asia, we analyzed 1800 DNA samples from 30 seizures of African pangolin scales in Hong Kong during the period 2012–2016. We concluded that all four African pangolin species were present in trade, and that the white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) appeared most frequently (88.5%) in our samples. All six previously described phylogeographic lineages originating from the entire distribution range of P. tricuspis were found in the seizures, and the western central African lineage alone accounted for 67.1% of the samples of this species. Confirmed by modelling data, high DNA haplotype richness was present in most of the pangolin scale seizures, including those contained in small air parcels and large-volume sea shipments. Results suggest that African pangolins were hunted across large areas of their natural range and then delivered to a small number of trade transit hubs. Our study illustrates the utility of genetic analysis for characterizing the illegal pangolin trade and identifying the geographic origin of poaching hotspots.
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Pangolins are increasingly threatened by demand for their scales, which are used in traditional medicines, and for their meat, which is consumed as a luxury. As populations of Asian pangolins decline, the demand is shifting to the four species in Africa, where local cultural use may already pose some level of threat. During 2010−2015 a total of 65 pangolin-related seizures (surrendered and confiscated) were reported in Zimbabwe, with the annual number of confiscations increasing significantly over this period. Zimbabwean authorities have toughened their stance against this trade, and during January−June 2015 three-quarters of confiscations of pangolins (n = 12) resulted in the maximum jail sentence for at least one of the offenders in each case. At present there is no evidence that pangolins are being traded from Zimbabwe to China, and the increased enforcement may be key to ensuring Zimbabwe's pangolins are not threatened by the large-scale illegal trade witnessed in Asia.
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We report on the illegal trade in live pangolins, their meat, and their scales in the Special Development Zone of Mong La, Shan State, Myanmar, on the border with China, and present an analysis of the role of Myanmar in the trade of pangolins into China. Mong La caters exclusively for the Chinese market and is best described as a Chinese enclave in Myanmar. We surveyed the morning market, wildlife trophy shops and wild meat restaurants during four visits in 2006, 2009, 2013–2014, and 2015. We observed 42 bags of scales, 32 whole skins, 16 foetuses or pangolin parts in wine, and 27 whole pangolins for sale. Our observations suggest Mong La has emerged as a significant hub of the pangolin trade. The origin of the pangolins is unclear but it seems to comprise a mixture of pangolins from Myanmar and neighbouring countries, and potentially African countries. Myanmar, on the basis of its geographic position, size and weak government, has emerged as an important transit country for the smuggling of pangolins to China. Data from 29 seizures from Myanmar and 23 from neighbouring countries (Thailand, India, China) implicating Myanmar as a source of pangolins or as a transit point for pangolins sourced in other countries, in the period 2010–2014, illustrate the magnitude of this trade. Combined these seizures amount to 4339 kg of scales and 518 whole pangolins, with a retail value in Myanmar of US$3.09 million. Trade in pangolins, their parts of their derivatives is illegal in Myanmar and CITES II listing with a zero-quota preclude international trade in them. We urge the Myanmar government to liaise with regional authorities to curb the trade in pangolins and recommend that the Myanmar and Chinese CITES authorities in particular come together urgently as to resolve the illicit trade of pangolins and their parts across their borders.
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Concern about the use of endangered and threatened species in traditional medicine escalated as populations of many species plummeted because of poaching for the medicinal trade. Nigeria is known for a long and valued tradition of using wild animals and plants for medicinal purposes. Despite this, studies on medicinal animals are still scarce when compared to those focusing on medicinal plants. Utilisation of wild animals in traditional Yorubic medical practices was indiscriminate as it involved threatened species. By touting the medicinal properties of these species, traditional medicine fuel continuing demand, thereby subjecting such species to further threats. This paper examined the use and commercialisation of pangolins for traditional medicinal purposes amongst the Ijebus, South-western Nigeria, and the implications of this utilisation for the conservation of this species. Traditional Yorubic medical practitioners (tymps) (16) and dealers in traditional medicinal ingredients (56) in public markets in Ijebu province, Nigeria, were interviewed using open-ended questionnaires. The dynamic stock movement of pangolins in the stalls of dealers was also monitored to determine quantity of pangolins sold into the traditional Yorubic medicinal practices. Specific conditions treated and the parts required were also documented. A total of 178 whole pangolin carcasses were sold into traditional medical practices. Above 55% of respondents had just primary education, over 90% of respondents were not aware of either the conservation status of this species or the existence of any legal machinery regulating its trade and utilisation, while 14% admitted to giving contracts to hunters for deliberate search for this animal when needed. More than 98% of respondents have no other means of livelihood. The trade was female dominated while the healing practice had more males. Pangolins were used in various preparations to treat a total of 42 conditions. These include infertility, gastro-intestinal disorders, safe parturition, stomach ulcers, rheumatism and fibroid. Traditional Yorubic medicine also accommodated some situations that are out of the range of conventional medicine like boosting sales, conferring invisibility, removing bad luck, appeasing/wading off witches cum evil forces and money rituals. Some of these situations specifically require juvenile, or even pregnant female animals. Traditional Yorubic medical practices eats deep into the reproductive base of the species, presently listed in Appendix II of CITES and Schedule I of the Nigerian Decree 11 (1985), both of which recommended strict control in sales and utilisation of this species. Its numerous medicinal values, folk culture and financial benefits of these activities are the main factors promoting the commercialisation and use of this species. Pharmacological studies on the various preparations are required to identify the bioactive compounds in them. There is a need for improved and urgent measures to conserve populations of this species in-situ. Massive education and enlightenment is urgently needed for the populace to have the necessary awareness and orientation about the conservation of this species.
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Traditional medicine has been practised in Ghana for centuries with the majority of Ghanaians still patronising the services of traditional healers. Throughout Africa a large number of people use pangolins as a source of traditional medicine, however, there is a dearth of information on the use of animals in folk medicine in Ghana, in particular the use of pangolins. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalent use of pangolins and the level of knowledge of pangolin use among traditional healers in Ghana for the treatment of human ailments. Data was gathered from 48 traditional healers using semi-structured interviews on the traditional medicinal use of pangolin body parts in the Kumasi metropolis of Ghana. The cultural importance index, relative frequency of citation, informant agreement ratio and use agreement values were calculated to ascertain the most culturally important pangolin body part as well as the level of knowledge dissemination among traditional healers with regards pangolin body parts. Our study revealed that 13 body parts of pangolins are used to treat various medicinal ailments. Pangolin scales and bones were the most prevalent prescribed body parts and indicated the highest cultural significance among traditional healing practices primarily for the treatment of spiritual protection, rheumatism, financial rituals and convulsions. Despite being classified under Schedule 1 of Ghana's Wildlife Conservation Act of 1971 (LI 685), that prohibits anyone from hunting or being in possession of a pangolin, our results indicated that the use of pangolins for traditional medicinal purposes is widespread among traditional healers in Ghana. A study on the population status and ecology of the three species of African pangolins occurring in Ghana is urgently required in order to determine the impact this harvest for traditional medical purposes has on their respective populations as current levels appear to be unmonitored and unsustainable.
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Throughout its range, Temminck's ground pangolin, Smutsia temminckii, is becoming increasingly threatened, predominantly as a result of anthropogenic pressures. This species is currently listed as Vulnerable in South Africa and Least Concern globally, although many assessment criteria are data deficient and thus hamper an accurate assessment of its actual status. Current knowledge of the threats faced by Temminck's ground pangolin largely stem from a handful of ecological studies and ad hoc observations. Here we synthesize data on the known threats faced by this species in southern Africa and highlight a number of new threats not previously recognized. The main threats faced by this species include electrocution on electrified fences, the traditional medicine (muthi) trade, habitat loss, road mortalities, capture in gin traps, and potentially poisoning. Electrocutions arguably pose the greatest threat and mortality rates may be as high as one individual per 11 km of electrified fence per year. However, the magnitude of the threat posed by the muthi trade has not yet been quantified. Most southern African countries have adequate legislation protecting this species, although implementation is often lacking and in some instances the imposed penalties are unlikely to be a deterrent. We propose mitigating actions for many of the identified threats, although further research into the efficacy of these actions, and the development of additional mitigating procedures, is required.
Smutsia temminckii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T12765A45222717
  • D Pietersen
  • C Waterman
  • L Hywood
  • P Rankin
  • D Soewu
Pietersen, D., Waterman, C., Hywood, L., Rankin, P. and Soewu, D. (2014). Smutsia temminckii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T12765A45222717. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-2.RLTS. T12765A45222717.en. Viewed on 12 February 2016.