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Thread: Pangolins

  1. #16
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    alternatives

    Consider alternatives to pangolin scales, traditional Chinese medicine professors urge at conservation conference in Hong Kong
    HKU academic warns that illegal vendors exaggerate the effectiveness of the scales for treating various conditions
    PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 1:22pm
    UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 9:09pm
    Karen Zhang
    https://twitter.com/karenised
    karen.zhang@scmp.com



    There are alternatives to pangolin scales that have similar medicinal qualities, Chinese medicine professors said, urging the public not to believe the exaggerated effects touted by illegal vendors.

    Their call, made at an international conservation conference on Wednesday, came as the Post reported that the amount seized in the first seven months of this year had reached a five-year high, with most of the contraband being sourced from Africa.

    At the event, traditional Chinese medicine academics, pangolin experts and conservationists from mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Africa gathered at the University of Hong Kong to discuss how to protect the highly trafficked mammals.

    The scales, comprising mainly keratin and believed to have high medicinal value, were found to be a major reason behind the poaching of the animals, whose meat is also seen as a delicacy. There is no scientific evidence showing that pangolin scales are effective as a treatment.

    “Many herbal medicines have very similar functions to pangolin scales,” said Professor Lao Lixing, director of HKU’s School of Chinese Medicine, during the conference organised by international conservation group WildAid.

    According to Lao, in Chinese medicine, it usually takes between five and nine grams of processed scales per dose, along with supplementary materials, to treat conditions such as breast milk stoppage, rheumatoid arthritis, sores and furuncles.

    He explained that the industry often associated the medical qualities of an ingredient with the animal’s behaviour.

    “[Pangolins] can go through the soil, so it’s believed that [their scales] can go through the vessels,” Lao said, referring to the meridian system, through which life energy flows in traditional Chinese medicine.


    Pangolins in Indonesia are at risk of extinction thanks to an illicit trade that sees thousands of them trafficked each year. Photo: AFP

    Lao listed six substitutes including cowherb seeds, known in Chinese as wang bu liu xing, which could be used for promoting milk secretion. Earthworms, known as di long, can also dispel “heatiness” and expel wind from the body.

    “There are so many [substitutes] if you look at the textbook of Chinese medicine. I just named a few here,” he said.

    Lao called on the Chinese government to educate the public about the medical properties of pangolin scales, as he feared that some people might think the products must be effective if they were banned. The effects were often exaggerated by illegal vendors, he said.

    Dr Feng Yibin, associate director at the same school, said the institution’s teachers always made it clear to students that the species were endangered and should not be used, although students were told about their medicinal value.

    On the mainland, raw pangolin scales can be obtained only at designated hospitals and from approved pharmaceutical companies, while legally sold processed scales must display a special label issued by the government.

    The Chinese government has supported captive breeding as a solution by granting approval to some companies to raise pangolins. International experts at in the conference however questioned the feasibility of this approach.


    Their scales, believed to have high medicinal value, were found to be a major reason behind the poaching of pangolins. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

    Dr Helen Nash, vice-chairwoman of the pangolin specialist group under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission, cited an IUCN study stating that pangolin farming was not financially viable and that many animals had died in captivity.

    Nash said that although the success rate of raising pangolins in captivity was a lot higher than it used to be, the cost of doing so – about US$7,000 – could not be covered by the animal’s market value. She added that zoos in Singapore and Taipei had tried for decades to raise pangolins but only managed to raise a handful. There was currently no commercial data for assessment, she said.

    WildAid CEO Peter Knights voiced concern that commercial farming would become an excuse for encouraging the wildlife trade as it was too expensive, slow and suffered from very high mortality.

    Dr Sun Quanhui, a senior scientific adviser from World Animal Protection, cited a 2010 survey that found most consumers were willing to buy wild bear bile at a higher price despite being given three alternatives, including bile from farmed bears.

    He added that using wildlife would be an obstacle to Chinese medicine going global as it left a negative impression and would face restrictions imposed by international players.

    According to WildAid, Chinese pangolins have disappeared from most of their habitats, with their population having fallen by more than 94 per cent since the 1960s. The demand then shifted towards the neighbouring Sunda pangolin, which in turn suffered an 80 per cent decline over the last 21 years.
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    Pangolins
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  2. #17
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    15,000 pangolins slaughtered

    Just heartbreaking.

    ‘15,000 pangolins slaughtered’ for 7 tonnes of scales seized in China
    Customs officials intercept three hauls since July of the endangered mammals, which are protected but are prized for their scales, meat and blood

    PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 11:32am
    UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 10:47pm
    Mandy Zuo
    mandy.zuo@scmp.com



    Authorities have seized more than seven tonnes of pangolin scales smuggled into south China from Africa since July, equivalent to 15,000 of the protected anteaters, which are believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammals.

    Customs officers from Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, intercepted 7,262kg of pangolin scales in three batches, Legal Daily reported this week.

    Helped by police, a task force captured four suspected smugglers. The leader of the gang, identified only by his surname Liu, has been arrested.

    While their scales are valued for their use in traditional Chinese medicine, the mammals’ meat is considered a delicacy. Their blood is used as a healing tonic.


    The pangolin scales seized by customs officers in Guangzhou represented an estimated 15,000 animals. Photo: People.com.cn

    “The cost of the scales from Africa is only about 340 yuan (US$49) per kilogram, but when they arrive in the Chinese black market, they are sold for 5,600 yuan per kilogram,” task force member Liang Jinkun was quoted as saying.

    “The huge mark-up has lured the suspects to take the risk [of violating the law].”

    Consider alternatives to pangolin scales, traditional Chinese medicine professors urge at conservation conference in Hong Kong

    Zheng Jun, deputy director of the Guangzhou customs anti-smuggling bureau, said it was rare in the mainland for “such a huge amount of products made from endangered animals [to be] seized via a shipment of commodities”.


    Pangolin scales, like those seized by customs agents in Guangzhou, can fetch up to US$812 per kilogram on the Chinese black market. Photo: People.com.cn

    More than two tonnes of scales were found packed in more than 100 white woven bags hidden in a shipment of granite slabs while they were being cleared for import in Luoding on July 11, Guangzhou customs officials were quoted as saying on Wednesday.

    Officials became suspicious after noticing cracks in the slabs, and found the bags after a careful check-up, the report said.

    Scales of endangered pangolin on sale in Hong Kong as loophole in law allows shops to cash in – but mostly to ‘people they know’

    A task force was later set up and intercepted another two batches of pangolin scales, weighing about 2.7 tonnes and 2.3 tonnes, which had been smuggled into Guangzhou, to the northwest of Hong Kong, by the same method.

    The quantity of scales seized amounted to poaching about 15,000 pangolins, according to Traffic, a non-governmental organisation that monitors wildlife trade to ensure it does not threaten the conservation of nature.

    The scaly mammals, which live mostly in Asia and Africa, are increasingly victims of illegal wildlife crimes despite being protected under national and international laws.

    Scales of endangered pangolin found for sale on Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo

    Although no authoritative estimate of pangolin populations exists, wildlife organisations believe its numbers are shrinking due to high demand for pangolin meat and scales, especially in China.


    Customs officials with the seized pangolin scales in Guangzhou. Photo: People.com.cn

    Pangolin scales are often used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote blood circulation, stimulate lactation, disperse swelling and expel pus. Its meat is consumed as a luxury food item, often as a badge of social status, according to Traffic.

    Critically endangered pangolins smuggled into China from Malaysia die soon after being rescued

    On average, about 20 tonnes of pangolins and their parts are trafficked internationally each year, according to a research report jointly released late last year by the organisation and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    China is the most common destination for large shipments of pangolin scales, while Asia as a whole is the primary arena for the trading of whole pangolins, the report said.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #18
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    Shorty nom

    Jackie Chan's 'Kung Fu Pangolins' bag Shorty nomination
    Updated Oct. 26, 2018, 3:10 p.m. | By The Scenic Drive with Rian

    International kung fu superstar Jackie Chan is doing his part to protect the endangered pangolin, and the Shorty Social Good Awards panel is taking notice.


    Facebook screenshot

    Pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammal in the world and are regarded as an endangered species. The anteaters have tough scales, which poachers sell along with meat from the pangolin's body.

    In 2017, American environmental organisation WildAid enlisted the help of international kung fu superstar Jackie Chan in creating a public service announcement about protecting pangolins. In it, Chan trains three pangolins to protect themselves by fighting back.

    The PSA, which carries the tagline "It takes just one move to protect pangolins", was viewed 13 million times on social media. The campaign has now been named as a finalist in the Shorty Social Good Awards.
    The impression left by the PSA was positive, with Shorty reporting notable changes in people's attitudes towards the buying and selling of pangolin products since seeing Jackie Chan's message.

    WildAid's mission is to end illegal wildlife trade through public awareness campaigns. It's a noble cause that must be fought for - and it certainly helps to have a famous face to help it along. Jackie Chan exudes his trademark humour, charm and agility as he teaches the animals how to protect themselves, making the PSA as fun to watch as it is educational.

    Chan has previously shown his concern for preserving wildlife species in a video aimed at curbing rhino poaching called "Say No", which was shot with the African Wildlife Foundation.

    Image: WildAid
    The PSA was posted here last year.

    Jackie Charity work - Pangolins & WildAid
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  4. #19
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    14 tons


    Seizure of 14 Tons of Pangolin Scales in Singapore Sets a Dismal Record



    Sacks containing pangolin scales that were seized last week in Singapore. Credit National Parks Board Singapore, via Reuters
    By Tiffany May
    April 8, 2019

    HONG KONG — Singapore has discovered more than 14 tons of pangolin scales in what conservation specialists called the largest such seizure of a single shipment worldwide, highlighting the stubbornness of the illegal trade of the scaly anteater.

    Roughly 36,000 pangolins were believed to have been killed for the shipment, according to Paul Thomson, an official with the Pangolin Specialist Group, an organization belonging to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The group called it the biggest seizure of pangolin scales on record.

    “The news of this record-shattering seizure is deeply alarming and underscores the fact that pangolins are facing a crisis,” Mr. Thomson said of the seizure, which took place last Wednesday. “If we don’t stop the illegal wildlife trade, pangolins face the risk of going extinct.”

    Pangolins are believed to be the most frequently illegally trafficked mammal in the world, with an estimated 300 of them poached every day on average. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared all eight species as “threatened with extinction” since 2014, while two species are critically endangered.

    Specialists say that the pangolin’s defense against predators, which is to curl itself into a ball, has made it an easy target for hunters.

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    This pup was born at our Wildlife Release Station. Mother, Lucy, lost two feet after getting caught in a poacher's snare. Father, Thom, was brought to WRS in May 2018 after escaping a wildlife trader. When ready he will be released
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    Singaporean customs officials and the country’s national parks board said in a statement that the scales, which had been shipped from Nigeria, were headed to Vietnam, home to the second-most lucrative black market for pangolin scales, after China.

    In Vietnam, many see pangolin meat as a luxury that conveys social status and health benefits, according to a survey conducted by WildAid in 2015.

    In China, about 70 percent of people surveyed by WildAid believed that the pangolin could cure ailments ranging from rheumatism to skin diseases; consumers often drink it in wine or in powder form as part of traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions.


    A pangolin rescued from poachers in South Africa. Pangolins are believed to be the most frequently illegally trafficked mammals in the world, with an estimated 300 of them poached every day on average.
    Credit
    Denis Farrell/Associated Press

    International laws forbid trafficking of all pangolin species, and techniques such as fingerprint forensics seek to deter poachers, but recent seizures have shown that the pangolin is still heavily trafficked around the world.

    In February, 33 tons of pangolin meat were seized in two processing facilities in Malaysia, according to Traffic, a wildlife conservation group. Earlier that month, the Hong Kong authorities intercepted a nine-ton shipment of pangolin scales and a thousand elephant tusks.

    When Singaporean officials intercepted the pangolin scale shipment last Wednesday, they also found nearly 400 pounds of carved ivory, officials said.
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  5. #20
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    Suing the Chinese forest authority

    Eco groups sue Chinese forestry department for failing to save smuggled pangolins
    Environmental NGO files lawsuit against Guangxi regional bodies accusing them of failing to look after endangered animals properly after rescuing them
    Pangolins are among the world’s most trafficked mammals because of the demand for their scales in traditional Chinese medicine
    Alice Yan
    Published: 3:50pm, 7 May, 2019


    Pangolins are among the world’s most trafficked animals. Photo: AP

    In the first lawsuit of its kind, a Chinese forestry authority has been sued for failing to save a group of smuggled pangolins.
    The forestry department in Guangxi and its terrestrial wild animals rescue centre are accused of dereliction of duty in relation to the deaths of 32 pangolins two years ago, a court in Nanning, the region’s capital, heard on Monday.
    The case, filed by Beijing-based non-governmental organisation the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation,is the first public welfare lawsuit in China involving the endangered animals, according to The Beijing News.
    Pangolins are among the world’s most trafficked mammals and China is the most common destination for large shipments of pangolins because their scales are valued as ingredients in traditional medicine, their meat is considered a luxury food item and their blood is used as a healing tonic.
    The foundation said that when the Guangxi rescue centre received the live pangolins that police seized from smugglers in August 2017, it offered to help treat the mammals, but the offer was rejected.


    Pangolins have low immunity and can become stressed when they are trafficked. Photo: AFP

    The pangolins all died within 66 days. The foundation wants the two defendants to pay compensation for the ecological losses caused by the death of the animals and to apologise for their mistake in state media. It is asking the court to evaluate the scale of ecological losses.

    Zhang Zhenqiu, deputy director of the forestry department’s protection section, told the newspaper that the accusation that it had failed to protect the pangolins was just “hype” because they were difficult to look after.


    Traditional Chinese medicine is fuelling demand for pangolin scales. Photo: KY Cheng

    The authority said the pangolins died because of they had low immunity and were stressed by the long journey from being trafficked from Vietnam.
    Many had digestive system illnesses as a result of being force-fed by the smugglers and some had serious injuries.
    In February, 130 pangolins intercepted by Guangxi police from smugglers all died soon after they were sent to two breeding bases – one in Guangxi and one in Guangdong province.
    It's ironic that a naturally armored creature has a low immunity.
    Gene Ching
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  6. #21
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    curbing trade

    AUGUST 13, 2019


    In order to revive the declining pangolin population because of habitat loss and rampant poaching, China is planning to upgrade the animal’s protection status. Handout.

    China moves to curb pangolin trade, as opinion shifts
    Public backs the shift away from using animal’s scales in traditional Chinese medicine, survey finds
    By DM CHAN

    The Chinese mainland and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) are providing a new level of protection to the world’s most trafficked mammal — pangolins.

    While the Chinese mainland intends to enhance the protection status of the animal, Hong Kong residents are demanding an end to the use of pangolin scales in traditional medicines, CGTN.com reported.

    More than two-thirds of HKSAR residents showed strong inclination to phase out the use of pangolin scales in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), according to a survey by Hong Kong University and WildAid released at the 18th Consortium for Globalization of Chinese Medicine Meeting in Shanghai.

    “There are sustainable herbal alternatives in traditional medicine and the public seems supportive in shifting away from the use of scales in TCM,” said Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid.

    A whopping 96% of respondents agreed that “endangered animal species should be protected.” Around 85% agreed that “Chinese medicine should phase out the use of endangered wildlife species whilst promoting sustainable and herbal alternatives.”

    “As a member of the Traditional Chinese Medicine community, I support removing endangered wildlife from medicine,” said Professor Lao Lixing, Director of the School of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong University who prepared the survey’s result, the report said.

    Despite the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a global wildlife trade regulator, banning the international trade of pangolin scales and meat, the illegal trade still flourishes.

    Concerned over the uncontrolled poaching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared all eight pangolin species as threatened by extinction.

    In order to revive the declining pangolin population because of habitat loss and rampant poaching, China is planning to upgrade the animal’s protection status, Xinhua reported.

    “It is hard to come across wild pangolins,” said Wu Zhimin, head of the wildlife conservation department of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration at a meeting in Changsha in central China.

    In China, pangolins are protected under the class-two of state wildlife protection law that bans the animal’s hunting. The country also banned the import of pangolin and its products in 2018. According to Wu, plans are afoot to move the protection level of the animal to class-one, the report said.

    Apart from national-level policies to protect pangolins, Chinese customs officials also started sharing intelligence inputs to intercept illegal wildlife consignments.
    It's great to see that WildAid's efforts for Pangolins are paying off.
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  7. #22
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    artichoke?

    It’s a mammal. It looks like an artichoke. And China is driving it toward extinction


    More than 8 metric tons of pangolin scales are displayed in February at a Hong Kong Customs news briefing in Kowloon.(Alex Hoffard/Shutterstock)
    By ALICE SUCHINA CORRESPONDENT
    SEP. 1, 2019 5 AM

    NANNING, China — The shopkeeper quickly scanned the traditional Chinese medicine market, looking for undercover police before she unlocked a desk drawer and dug out what looked like a clam shell, palm-sized and coffee-brown.
    “It cures cancer,” she said.

    The contraband was a scale from a pangolin, an armored anteater that looks a cross between an artichoke and a Pokémon.

    A skittish creature that snuffles about for ants at night and rolls into a ball whenever threatened, the pangolin is now the world’s most-trafficked mammal, driven to the brink of extinction by poaching for a Chinese market that uses their scales for medicine and considers their meat a delicacy.

    Hunting pangolin has been illegal in China for more than a decade, but smuggling of the animals is a growing industry, especially in the southern provinces bordering Vietnam and Thailand.

    In Guangxi province, a Beijing-based environmental nonprofit has sued the government agency responsible for wildlife protection for letting hundreds of rescued pangolins die in its care.

    Government records show that the agency placed hundreds of the animals in “foster care” with companies that have nothing to do with wildlife conservation. One was a steel manufacturer under police investigation for wildlife trafficking.

    “There have been thousands that have disappeared,” said Zhou Jinfeng, head of the non-profit China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, which has been pressing the government to account for all the pangolins it’s taken in.

    Guangxi’s forestry department says that pangolins are hard to keep alive and may have died because of mistreatment by smugglers before being rescued.

    The animals are prized for their scales, which are pried off the bodies of pangolins that have been killed. A single animal can have 1,000 scales.

    More than 50 tons of scales — which would require slaughtering more than 100,000 pangolins — have been seized globally in the last four months, according to San Francisco-based animal protection group WildAid.

    A single pangolin can have 1,000 scales. Chinese buyers use the scales for medicine and consider the meat a delicacy.(AFP/Getty Images)

    Most of the demand comes from China, where pangolins are still legally approved for use in more than 60 medicines despite a 2007 ban on hunting the animals and a 2018 ban on importing them.

    There are eight species of pangolin. Under the United Nations treaty on endangered species, six of the eight species are classified as “vulnerable” and two are “critically endangered.” All eight are banned from international trade.

    Chinese pangolin populations have fallen by more than 94% since the 1960s, according to WildAid.

    Chinese law considers the pangolin a Category II endangered species, meaning its protection is relegated to the provincial level and — unlike Category I animals such as the giant panda — it can still be farmed and sold with permits for limited use.

    Critics say enforcement of that permit system is rife with corruption, allowing trafficking to continue.

    In Nanning’s traditional Chinese medicine market, three different sellers warned that officials were cracking down on pangolin sales, but then brought out their products and promised they could source more for big buyers.

    One of the shops sold individual scales for roughly $14 each. They are used for gua sha, a medicinal body-scraping that is meant to improve energy circulation, a core concept of traditional Chinese medicine. Polished, engraved scales that are collected as art could go for $140 apiece, the seller said.

    Two other shopkeepers showed a Times reporter bags of dried pangolin scales available for roughly $336 a pound. Those scales could be ground up and consumed with water to improve blood circulation and lactation, they said.

    Pangolin scales mostly consist of keratin, the same stuff that makes up fingernails. Their medical efficacy has not been proven, but the Chinese species (one of eight) is listed in the Chinese pharmacopeia, a catalog of official medicines and their standard uses.

    Chinese medicine now relies on smuggled African and Southeast Asian pangolin.

    Zhou said medicine based on non-Chinese pangolin is “fake,” driven by commercialization of Chinese tradition for a burgeoning middle class of unquestioning Chinese consumers.

    “We don’t even need this much medicine,” he said. “It’s not real demand. It’s not actual human demand. It’s the madness of capitalism and corporations, pushing human action to also go mad. If we don’t change, the whole world’s pangolins will go extinct.”

    Feng Yibin, the associate director of Hong Kong University’s School of Chinese Medicine, said demand for traditional Chinese medicine is hard to change, even when there are more sustainable alternatives.

    “It’s thousands of years of culture and history,” he said.

    Feng, for example, has failed to persuade many people that plant-based alternatives to bear bile, a traditional Chinese medicine ingredient, are more effective than the real stuff — despite publishing scientific papers showing it.

    “You have this scientific data, but they don’t want to listen to it,” he said. “It’s a matter of belief.”


    A market popular for selling ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine in Guangzhou in southern China's Guangdong province. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

    China has tried to strengthen wildlife protection, especially after consumption of civet cats was linked to the outbreak of SARS in Guangdong province in 2003.

    In posters around the city of Guangzhou, celebrities including the Hong Kong martial artist and actor Jackie Chan and the Taiwanese singer Jay Chou pose with pangolins and warn that buying or eating endangered animal products is illegal.

    But official corruption and lack of enforcement belie the messaging campaign.

    As recently as 2015, government officials in Guangxi were posting social media photos of themselves feasting on pangolin meat at banquets.

    A former wildlife rescue official in Guangxi’s forestry department told The Times that Chinese smugglers had called his office almost daily offering bribes for turning a blind eye to their black markets.

    “There’s too much temptation for bribery in this position,"he said. “Today they offer you one hundred thousand, you say no. Tomorrow they offer you two hundred thousand, you say no. The next day, they offer you more money. What will you say?”

    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had always refused bribes but never arrested the smugglers because he was afraid of retaliation by powerful crime syndicates.

    “For five years, the more I did it, the more scared I felt,” he said. “The three biggest trafficked items in the world are drugs, arms, and wildlife. This is terrifying. They’re the biggest criminal circles of illegal smuggling.”

    Two other wildlife officials were later convicted of bribery, he said. He called the most recent case involving Guangxi forestry department “ridiculous.”

    “What does a steel company do with pangolins?” he said.

    The company in question, Yanbu Yuehuiteng Steel of Foshan, Guangdong province, sells metal hardware and electrical appliances.

    It was implicated in an investigation by Hunan police involving 129 suspected wildlife traffickers and more than 50,000 smuggled pangolins, according to local media.

    The pangolin is obscure but also a “flagship type of animal,” Zhou said. Saving the pangolin would set a precedent for wildlife protection in China, he said.

    “We shouldn’t destroy our own natural habitat because of humans’ never-ending business growth,” Zhou said. “It’s going to come back to us.”



    Alice Su
    Alice Su is a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times based in Beijing, China.
    I've always thought a lot of TCM's use of exotic animals was based solely upon their exotic appearance embueing some sort of superstitious 'magical' projection. Which makes me wonder now - are there TCM uses for artichokes?
    Gene Ching
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  8. #23
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    First it was bats. Now pangolins?

    WORLD NEWS FEBRUARY 7, 2020 / 12:45 AM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO
    Scientists question work suggesting pangolin coronavirus link
    Kate Kelland, Tom Daly
    3 MIN READ

    LONDON/BEIJING (Reuters) - Independent scientists questioned research on Friday that suggested that the outbreak of coronavirus disease spreading from China might have passed from bats to humans through the illegal traffic of pangolins.


    FILE PHOTO: A man holds a pangolin at a wild animal rescue center in Cuc Phuong, outside Hanoi, Vietnam September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kham
    South China Agricultural University, which said it had led the research, said on its website that the “discovery will be of great significance for the prevention and control of the origin (of the new virus)”.

    China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus strain separated from pangolins in the study was 99% identical to that from infected people. It said the research had found pangolins - the world’s only scaly mammals - to be “the most likely intermediate host.”

    But James Wood, head of the veterinary medicine department at Britain’s University of Cambridge, said the research was far from robust.

    “The evidence for the potential involvement of pangolins in the outbreak has not been published, other than by a university press release. This is not scientific evidence,” he said.

    “Simply reporting detection of viral RNA with sequence similarity of more than 99% is not sufficient. Could these results have been caused by contamination from a highly infected environment?”

    Pangolins are one of Asia’s most trafficked mammals, despite laws banning the trade, because their meat is considered a delicacy in countries such as China and their scales are used in traditional medicine.

    The outbreak of disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed 636 people in mainland China, is believed to have started in a market in the city of Wuhan that also sold live wild animals.

    Virus experts think it may have originated in bats and then passed to humans, possibly via another species.

    Jonathan Ball, a professor of molecular virology at Britain’s University of Nottingham, said that while the South China Agricultural University research was an interesting development, it was still unclear “whether or not the endangered pangolin really is the reservoir”.

    “We would need to see all of the genetic data to get a feel for how related the human and pangolin viruses are, and also gain an understanding of how prevalent this virus is in pangolins and whether or not these were being sold in the Wuhan wet markets,” he said.

    Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary medicine at Hong Kong’s City University, also said the research was a long way from establishing a link between pangolins and the new coronavirus outbreak in humans.

    “You can only draw more definitive conclusions if you compare prevalence (of the coronavirus) between different species based on representative samples, which these almost certainly are not,” he said.

    Additional reporting by Dominique Patton in Beijing. Editing by John Stonestreet, Peter Graff and Giles Elgood
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  9. #24
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    World Pangolin Day

    It's tomorrow. Today is Valentines...

    Is This a Watershed Moment for Pangolins?
    February 14, 2020



    Pangolins have had a rough start to 2020 – though truthfully it’s been a rough couple of decades. In just the first six weeks, Nigeria Customs seized 9.5 tonnes of pangolin scales, representing tens of thousands of animals, while scientists in China have suggested a link between pangolins and the novel coronavirus.

    It was over three years ago that the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted to protect all eight species of pangolins from international trade. Yet the pangolin remains the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal. It is estimated that up to 200,000 are taken from the wild every year across Africa and Asia to meet demand for their scales and meat.

    And now they may be linked to an epidemic that has commanded the attention and vigilance of the whole world. In preparing to celebrate World Pangolin Day on February 15th, it’s hard to overlook the glaring fact that the pangolin’s future is uncertain.

    Are pangolins vectors of disease?

    Research is still being conducted but even before the novel coronavirus made headlines, scientists thought pangolins could be a good candidate to be an intermediate host for a virus. This is in part due to the nature of the multinational illegal trade, the shear amount of pangolins being traded, the animal’s low threshold for stress, and possibly a weak immune response to fight off infections.



    “Pangolins, as with other illegally-traded species, may become important reservoirs to possibly immunologically-naive populations of humans, livestock and other wildlife along the entire illicit trade supply chain,” says Sean Heighton, who is studying molecular traceability at the Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, Université de Toulouse III (IRD). “The same can be said if pangolins are to be captive bred for consumers. In order for these pangolin farms to be a success, they would need to have a large enough founder population (requiring the capture of wild pangolins likely from different regions and thus naive to each other’s pathogens as well as the environmental pathogens of the facilities they are placed in), place them in an unnatural setting (stressful conditions can result in reduced immune responses to infection), try to provide them with nutritional requirements that are extremely specialized (nutrition from ants and termites) and allow them to be in continuous contact with humans. The health implications, not only for humans but for the pangolin populations placed in these conditions, may be noteworthy.”

    The idea is that when pangolins are captured and smuggled for thousands of miles, often without food or water, they’re more likely to become hosts for a pathogen to live and multiply. These animals, along with the many other species they are traded with, may become “disease reservoirs” that can serve as a source from which other individuals, including humans, can be infected. If left alone in the wild, the shy, docile pangolin is a harmless creature filling an important ecological niche, controlling pest populations by individually consuming some 70 million insects per year. In other words, pangolins are unlikely a threat to anyone unless they are captured, handled, traded and consumed by people.



    Pangolin Demand in China and Vietnam

    The use of pangolin scales in traditional medicine in both China and Vietnam is a major contributor to the pangolin’s endangered status. Despite all trade in pangolin meat and scales being banned internationally, Vietnam continues to be a major player in the trafficking chain. China still allows domestic sales of approved medicines containing pangolin scales despite a dwindling legal supply.



    But recently, China has taken steps to address the use of pangolins in traditional medicine. Last August, the National Medical Insurance and Human Resource and Social Security Bureau announced the country’s national insurance will no longer cover medicines containing pangolin as well as other products derived from threatened and endangered species. Vietnam has a similar regulation in place. China’s Wildlife Conservation Department of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) is also considering increasing the pangolin’s national protection status to Class I.

    What’s Next?

    In response to the coronavirus outbreak, more Chinese citizens are demanding sustained action against illegal wildlife trade and consumption. China has fast-tracked its legislation work related to wildlife, according to an ECNS media report. Later this year, the top legislature is expected to amend its law on the protection of wildlife as well as laws on animal epidemic prevention.

    Wang Ruihe, an official with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee said on Monday, the potential public health security risks caused by trading and eating wild animals have drawn worldwide concern, stressing the need to improve laws and regulations related to wildlife.

    But legislation is only part of the solution, said Professors Jie Li and Jun Li of Guangzhou University in a recent article in The Lancet.

    “The ultimate solution lies in changing people’s minds about what is delicious, trendy, prestigious, or healthy to eat,” they said. “We believe that through a change in the outdated and inappropriate tradition of consuming wild animals and their products, we can conserve the natural habitat of wild animals, and humans and other living creatures can coexist in harmony.”



    What WildAid is Doing

    As part of its behavior change campaign work in China and Vietnam, WildAid is working closely with these governments to reduce consumer demand for pangolins. With the help of legendary ambassadors like Jackie Chan and superstar Angelababy, our program aims to raise awareness of the pangolin poaching crisis and to reduce consumer demand. We are currently developing new activities to build on the current government resolve and pending new regulations. And working with our partners in media and the government, we will amplify messages to end the consumption of pangolin meat and scales, establishing this a societal norm.

    A 2015 WildAid survey found that 70% of respondents in China believed pangolin scales had medicinal value. Eighteen months after launching our campaign, this figure had dropped 28.5% (in 2017, 50% believed in the medicinal value of scales), demonstrating the impact of our messaging on people’s perceptions of pangolins. Despite this progress, the number of respondents admitting to having purchased pangolin products continued to hover around 9% in 2017, indicating there is still demand for the products and much more work is needed.



    Meanwhile in Africa, WildAid is working on a public awareness campaign that we hope will inspire a sense of national pride in pangolins and start a movement to end live wildlife markets. WildAid recently traveled to Nigeria, a major pangolin trafficking hub, with Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou to investigate wildlife markets and rescue live pangolins.



    “Africa needs to heed the lessons from China and close down these wildlife markets immediately,” said WildAid ambassador and Academy Award-nominee Hounsou. “As well as a massive risk to health, they endanger species and are inhumane.”

    Despite all the doom and gloom news, we invite you to celebrate these magnificent creatures with us on World Pangolin Day.

    Let’s make sure we harness the recent international attention for good, spotlighting all of the quirky, incredible (and harmless) features of these unique creatures who have existed on this planet for some 70 million years, while recognizing the urgency with which we must act to save them. Perhaps this is the watershed moment we needed to cement their future once and for all. #PangolinPower
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  10. #25
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    Good article on PRC Wild Animal Trade Ban



    Voices & Opinion
    The Challenge Facing China’s Wild Animal Trade Ban
    If the country is serious about curbing the wild animal trade, it needs to rethink its approach.


    Feb 27, 2020 5-min read
    Voices
    Zhou Hongcheng
    Professor of food culture
    Zhou Hongcheng is an assistant professor of Chinese food culture at Zhejiang Gongshang University.

    On Feb. 24, China announced it would implement a “comprehensive” and immediate ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals nationwide. The move cemented an earlier emergency ban enacted amid the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, which has killed 2,800 and sickened over 80,000 worldwide as of Feb. 27.

    But whether it will have a lasting impact is another question. This isn’t the first time a zoonotic coronavirus has devastated China or sparked a legislative and popular backlash against wild animal consumption. SARS, which some scientists believe jumped to humans from masked palm civets at a wet market in southern China, killed nearly 800 people around the world from 2002 to 2004. While recent research has cast doubt on the theory that COVID-19 originated in a live animal market in the central city of Wuhan, virologists still believe it was likely transmitted to humans from wild animals, possibly endangered pangolins.

    In the wake of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, China updated its existing rules governing the wildlife trade, but a combination of loopholes and muddled enforcement has continued to render them largely ineffective. If we want this time to be different, we first need to understand the cultural and commercial drivers of the trade, as well as the flaws in the current regulatory and enforcement system.

    Chinese have consumed wild animals for thousands of years, though contrary to stereotypes abroad, they are hardly a fixture of the country’s dinner tables. In its most basic form, the practice was a matter of survival: China had a large population, limited arable land, and a long history of natural and man-made disasters. In times of need, many ordinary Chinese turned to wild animals and plants for sustenance.

    In non-emergencies, the traditional notion that “like nourishes like” led many to believe that eating animal parts could have a beneficial effect on the diner’s corresponding body part. For example, braised beef tendon was seen as a curative for frail knees, and sheep’s ***** as a virility booster.

    As the above examples show, such customs aren’t necessarily tied to the consumption of wild or exotic animals. But there is a long-standing belief in China that the rarer something is, the greater its value. Rare or hard-to-obtain meat was — and sometimes still is — thought to have extremely potent medicinal effects. It could also be a powerful symbol of filial piety, love, and respect, as in the folk story of the woman who cut flesh from her thigh to cook a medicinal porridge for her mother-in-law.

    One domestic media outlet found over 100 possible exceptions to the new rules, including sika deer, red deer, and ring-necked pheasant.
    - Zhou Hongcheng, professor
    These customs have been reinforced by the tenets of traditional Chinese medicine, which makes liberal usage of ingredients extracted from wild animals — such as tiger bone, pilose antler, and deer fetus. Pangolins are another common source of curatives. And while the consumption of pangolin meat is illegal in the country, an exception for TCM practitioners has long allowed the scales of farm-bred pangolins to be prescribed for medicinal use — a loophole that has greatly complicated efforts to protect the species.

    China has had a wildlife protection law on the books since 1988, but its single-minded focus on encouraging the commercial rearing and breeding of species over conservation has led many critics to dub it the “wildlife exploitation law.” In particular, species categorized as one of the “three haves” — having “ecological, scientific, or social value,” like pangolins — were eligible to be bred and sold by licensed farms, which have become a key pillar of rural economies in impoverished parts of the country.

    In addition to forming a regulatory blind spot — the relevant authorities generally lack the resources to ensure wildlife farms are operating legally and within regulations — farm-raised wildlife muddies the waters for what is and isn’t legal to consume. The latest ban, despite its claim to be “comprehensive,” does little to clear things up. One domestic media outlet found over 100 possible exceptions to the new rules, including sika deer, red deer, and ring-necked pheasant.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. On Feb. 25, the day after China announced its nationwide ban on the wild animal trade, the southern megacity of Shenzhen unveiled its own version of the rules, including a white list with just nine types of meat on it. On the city’s black list were a number of species, including turtles, snakes, and some types of birds that local authorities believed posed a risk to public health, despite still being legal to raise under national law.

    That’s a far simpler and more effective approach than the convoluted new national ban, but it may not be enough on its own. One of the primary reasons China is so vulnerable to zoonotic diseases is the very nature of its cities — and the places where animals, both wild and domesticated, are sold.

    Wet markets have been linked to numerous infectious disease outbreaks in China over the years, from SARS to bird flu, and their close proximity to residential areas makes them a sizeable community risk. COVID-19 might not have originated in a Wuhan wet market, but the market’s central location almost certainly helped accelerate its spread.

    Wet markets’ reputations as incubators for disease makes them easy targets during epidemics, and local governments around the country have responded to the current crisis with bans and cleanup campaigns. The eastern province of Zhejiang, for example, has not just cracked down on the wild animal trade, but also the sale of live poultry.

    These campaign-style enforcement efforts cannot achieve lasting change. As long as small markets are allowed to sell and slaughter live animals, resource-strapped local governments will be hard-pressed to monitor and regulate their compliance with health and sanitation codes. To reduce the risk of animal-to-human transmission, slaughter and packaging operations should be moved to large-scale, advanced, and easier-to-monitor operations away from residential areas.

    The guiding principles of any legislation should be clarity and practicability
    - Zhou Hongcheng, professor
    Ultimately, the guiding principles of any legislation should be clarity and practicability. Banning the wildlife trade altogether while carving out a broad array of exceptions for different species and market needs clearly hasn’t been effective. And although Shenzhen’s new guidelines are admirably clear, they likely go too far: One of the delights of any cuisine is variety, and banning all but the most common livestock outright will likely cause resentment that could set back the conservation movement. We need to assess the risks and conservation needs of each individual species before making a clear and definite decision one way or the other.

    Meanwhile, we should take steps to lower demand for wild animals. There is research showing young Chinese are already less interested in wild animal consumption than older generations. We should encourage this trend through health and scientific education, such as by pointing out the lack of scientific evidence for most TCM remedies. Higher taxes can also be used to slowly discourage consumption of wild animal byproducts.

    Changing long-ingrained eating habits will take time. Rather than rushing in with a blanket ban, we should rationally examine the issue, identify the core problems, and work to resolve them, step-by-step.

    Translator: David Ball; editors: Wu Haiyun and Kilian O’Donnell.

    (Header image: A Chinese pangolin strolls in the soil, June 2017. IC)
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  11. #26
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    23 tonnes of scales

    South China Morning Post
    Chinese gang of pangolin smugglers jailed over US$17.6 million haul of scales
    Echo Xie
    Tue, 5 January 2021, 6:26 am GMT-8·3-min read
    A court in eastern China has sentenced a gang of pangolin smugglers to up to 14 years in jail in one of the biggest cases of its kind in recent years.

    Wenzhou Intermediate People’s Court announced on Tuesday morning that two of the defendants, identified by their family names Yao and Wang, had been sentenced to 14 years and 13 years in jail respectively and fined 4 million yuan (US$618,000) and 3 million yuan for trafficking 23 tonnes of scales from one of the world’s most endangered animals.

    Fifteen others were given sentences ranging from 15 months to 12 years, ThePaper.cn reported.

    Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

    The report said Yao and Wang had started trafficking the scales, which are valued for their use in traditional Chinese medicine, in 2018. An associate smuggled them into the country from Nigeria and the pair then sold them on in China.



    The gang was caught in October the following year, when Wenzhou police seized over 10.94 tonnes of pangolin scales after they intercepted a shipment. At the time it was hailed as the largest haul seized that year with an estimated value of 114 million yuan (US$17.6 million).

    A report by Science and Technology Daily estimated that more than 50,000 pangolins would have been killed to generate such a haul.

    Pangolins are the most heavily trafficked wild mammal in the world.

    Pangolins removed from Chinese directory of medicines

    Three of the eight species of pangolin found in Asia and Africa – including the Chinese pangolin – are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    Although the pangolin scales are made of keratin – the same protein found in human nails – scales and fetuses have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.


    Police in Wenzhou intercepted a shipment of scales in October 2019. Photo: Weibo
    Beijing has stepped up its protections in recent years, banning the hunting of pangolins in 2007, and outlawing imports of the animals and their by-products 11 years later.

    But trafficking has remained rampant. According to the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, 123 tonnes of pangolin scales were confiscated by Chinese authorities in 2019 alone.

    Following the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, the Chinese government passed a fast track ban last February on the trade and consumption of wild animals in an effort to avoid further outbreaks.

    Could pangolins be a piece of the coronavirus puzzle?

    In June last year, the authorities also banned the use of pangolin scales in traditional Chinese medicine, a move hailed by conservationists as an important step.

    The decision came just days after the National Forestry and Grassland Administration designated pangolins a “first-tier protected wild animal” on a par with giant pandas and tigers.

    The change in its protected status means the maximum sentence for anyone found guilty of hunting or trading pangolins has been raised from five to 10 years to life.

    Sophia Zhang, director of the pangolin working group at the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, said that there would still be more cases like the latest one because of loopholes in the law and policing practices.

    “Pangolins are delisted from the traditional Chinese medicine official list, but some medicines containing pangolin scales are still on sale, so the law needs to follow up,” she said.

    Under Chinese criminal law, smuggling cases that involve fewer than eight pangolins would not be considered “severe” crimes and only warrant a relatively light penalty.

    “Now people know that pangolins are as precious as pandas, but there are still some deficiencies in the law and practice,” Zhang said.
    How many pangolins does it take to get a tonne of scales?
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