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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Pangolins Benefit as United States, Range States Gather to Plan Critical Conservation

Temminck's ground pangolin. Photo by Maria Diekmann/Rare and Endangered Species Trust

Delegates came away from the first Pangolin Range States Meeting, which was co-hosted by Vietnam and the United States and organized by Humane Society International, with growing hope that their efforts will conserve imperiled pangolins, thought to be among the most trafficked mammals in the world.

Fourteen Asian and 17 African pangolin range countries gathered together with the United States, pangolin experts and representatives from the CITES Secretariat and nongovernmental organizations June 24-26 in Vietnam to develop a unified action plan with recommendations to protect all eight pangolin species.

Right before that, we organized an informal technical roundtable discussion with partners interested in Central African pangolin conservation as a side event to the 2015 Congo Basin Forest Partnership meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to share information about current pangolin conservation activities and compile regional data in preparation for the first Pangolin Range States Meeting

But wait a minute, you say, what’s a pangolin?

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are mammals with bodies  covered in overlapping scales made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and finger nails, and rhino horn. Found in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, pangolins are used in traditional Asian medicine and considered a luxury food in many cultures. Like most wildlife pangolins are also threatened with habitat loss. (You can learn more on our pangolin page.)

All pangolin species are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), so trade is carefully regulated. A zero annual export quota for Asian pangolins was established under CITES in 2000 for specimens removed from the wild and traded for primarily commercial purposes. In addition, many range states in Africa and Asia have domestic laws that prohibit the capture and trade of pangolins. But the poaching continues:  more than 1million pangolins were traded illegally over the last decade.

Delegates at the first Pangolin Range States Meeting in Vietnam. Photo by Vietnam CITES Management Authority

At the range states meeting, attendees developed recommendations to address several critical issues, including: 

  • Pangolin biological data deficits,
  • Legal and illegal harvest and trade,
  • Care and husbandry of pangolins in captivity,
  • Scientific assessment under CITES, and
  • Effective law enforcement.

Their official recommendations will be reported to the CITES Inter-sessional Pangolin Working Group for their consideration leading up to the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties, in October 2016.

We consider pangolins a priority species and fear that without concerted and strategic international cooperation and action, pangolins will disappear.

Pangolins are not native to the United States, but as demonstrated by our efforts to end the poaching of African elephants and the trafficking of their ivory, we are a leader in the global fight against ALL wildlife trafficking. We are using our expertise in facilitating international cooperation within CITES and collaboration across the globe to achieve progress for pangolins and other species threatened by trafficking.

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