China is increasing protection for pangolins, removing their scales from the official 2020 list of ingredients approved for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammal, prized for their scales and their meat, with an estimated 195,000 pangolins trafficked in 2019, according to the WWF.
The delisting from the Chinese Pharmacopoeia comes after China’s State Forestry and Grassland Administration raised the protected status of all eight species of pangolins to the highest level (first class, the same protection level as the giant panda) last week.
Zhou Jinfeng, secretary general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, told The Guardian, “I am very encouraged. Our continuous efforts for several years have not been in vain.”
Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy and is consumed by China’s elite, who believe it provides health and sexual benefits. But the new protection, combined with China’s temporary ban on wildlife trade and the consumption of wild meat in February due to links between wildlife markets and the spread of COVID-19, means that there’s finally hope for the scaly anteater.
Zhou Fei, chief program officer of WWF-China said, “No culture or tradition is worth the extinction of an entire species. Endangered species, whether used for food or medicine, whether effective or not, should no longer be used because they are endangered or on the verge of extinction. The ecosystem values of pangolins are much more than the value of their meat or scales. There is a long way to go in protecting them, but we can start from rejecting the consumption of products made from them.”