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How Pangolins Made it to the 'World's Most Protected Animals'

Sep 30, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Arguably the world's most trafficked animal, the cute and strange pangolin, has officially moved up to Appendix I of CITES, which states that all trades involving the animals under the said appendix are prohibited. This momentous decision is welcomed by different wildlife organizations as they have been supportive of pangolin's cause.

The Secretariat of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has previously recommended that all species of pangolins should be included in Appendix I. All four Asian pangolins are projected to experience a population decline. Meanwhile, the remaining four African species, despite lack of information about their actual numbers, still need as much protection because pangolin trading and over-harvesting will surely make the species experience "marked declines" in population.

Pangolins are previously listed under Appendix II, which only allows limited trade.This loophole are being exploitated by the poachers to keep up with the demand for the nocturnal animals. Aside from a thriving illegal trade, prices of the pangolins have went up to 250 percent in the last five years, according to Natural Resources Defense Council. Pangolins are so in demand in the market, particularly in China, as their scales and meat are used in traditional Asian medicine.

During the 17th CITES conference, delegates have voted to uplift pangolins to Appendix I. The decision has been supported by several wildlife organizations. According to Susan Liebermann, VP of international policy of Wildlife Conservation Society, the ruling gave pangolins a "fighting chance."

Meanwhile, Madhu Rao, senior adviser of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said that while the status change of pangolins might still not totally stop the trade, this first step will empower and educate law enforcers to take action to stop illegal trade, Popular Science reports. Most importantly, poachers cannot exploit any loopholes as there are no loopholes in Appendix I. Rao said that through this decision, there can be no legal trade as "All trade is prohibited."

Pangolins are mammals that are covered with reptile-like scales that resembles a "tiny dragon." When in danger, pangolins roll up their bodies like a ball to escape predators. According to the World Wildlife Fund, between 2011 and 2023, there are around 116,990 to 233,980 pangolins killed due to intense trade.

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