Pangolins implicated in deadly coronavirus outbreak

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Today is World Pangolins Day celebrated globally to raise awareness about pangolins and their plight.

They are the only scaled mammals native to around 51 countries and are the world’s most hunted and trafficked mammals.

The magnitude of their plight in both numbers and suffering is huge. More than a million are believed to have been killed and traded between 2000 – 2013 primarily for the traditional Asian medicine trade.

And between 2010 – 2015 there were 1,270 reported seizures in 67 countries and territories across six continents.

Victoria University

This involved 120 tonnes of body parts, whole animals and scales, plus an additional 46,000 individual carcasses. Between 2017 and 2019 alone, 77 tonnes of pangolins scales were seized in Hong Kong originating from Nigeria.

This represents close to 214, 000 pangolins. Urgent action is needed to save these shy nocturnal ant eaters.

There are eight species of pangolin – four Asian and four African; all are threatened and are at real risk of becoming extinct.

CITES considers the pangolin so threatened that it lists all species in CITES Appendix I which includes other threatened species such as African grey parrots, Asian elephants and tigers.

As Asian pangolin species become scarce, wildlife traffickers are sourcing African pangolin species for illegal markets.

We are concerned that poaching, coupled with the pangolins’ natural slow rates of reproduction, are pushing them to the brink of extinction.

The illegal global trade in pangolins is now recognised as the biggest contributor to their demise. The pain and suffering involved is unacceptable.

Attempts to get pangolins to live and reproduce in captivity have largely failed. Their life expectancy should be around 20 years, but in captivity most die within just three years; mortality rates are around 70% in the first year.

There is no evidence to support claims regarding medicinal properties of pangolin scales or any other part of the pangolin.

In fact, recently, reports emerged that the current Corona virus may have been transmitted from pangolins.

Edith Kabesiime, Wildlife Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection says, “It’s not surprising to hear that pangolins are implicated in the on-going deadly coronavirus outbreak – given that millions of them are being stolen from the wild across Asia and Africa and traded around the world.

World Animal Protection documented the cruel and gruesome ways pangolins are poached and slaughtered with no biosecurity measures in place. They are harvested for meat, and their scales are used in traditional medicines, despite herbal alternatives being readily available. Wildlife trade like this is responsible for terrible animal suffering and puts the health of people at risk, as we can now see.”

“Pangolins are already protected under international law, but effective enforcement and efforts to redirect consumer demand to these herbal alternatives are urgently needed if we are to keep Pangolins in the wild where they belong. If we want to do everything in our power to prevent deadly disease outbreaks such as coronavirus, then a permanent ban on wildlife trade, in China, and around the world, is the only solution. “

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