The United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) decided to augment safeguards for the trade of endangered pangolins in the world, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Officials featured in CITIES voted to move Pangolins to the Appendix 1 protection and ban all commercial movement of the animal or its parts through borders. The Pangolin was previously featured in the Appendix II protection of the UN’s wildlife official list. However, the organization informed the trade of the mammal has increased over the past decade to “overwhelming” levels.

“Pangolins are believed to possess magic or charms. When mixed with bark from certain trees, the scales are thought to neutralize witchcraft and evil spirits,” said the African Wildlife Foundation. Image credit: African Wildlife Foundation.

The species is categorized as the “most poached mammal in the world” and according to the organization over one million pangolins have died in the last decade due to its international trade.

“Giving pangolins full protection under CITIES will eliminate any question about legality or trade, making it harder for criminals to traffic them and increasing the consequences for those who do,” said Ginette Hemley, who is part of the World Wildlife Fund to Reuters.

Increasing protection for a species that is being driven to extinction 

Pangolins are small mammals commonly found in Africa and Asia and are recognized for their hard shell of keratin scale and for curling up into a ball. Commonly confused with the armadillo, these animals measure between twelve and thirty-nine inches long.

These creatures tend to keep their burrows near them at any moment, except for when they go hunting at night. Pangolins have long and sharp tongues that help them catch ants and termites, their favorite food source.

Pangolin trade
Two men reportedly trading pangolins in Vietnam. Image credit: The Independent.

The name “Pangolin” comes from the Malay word “pengguling” which means something that rolls or curls up. These animals tend to live in burrows or hollow trees and are more active through the night.

Pangolins are largely hunted trough for their protective keratin scales that are used as a calming medicine in traditional Chinese medicine to treat excessive nervousness and hysterical crying.

The species’ scales are also eaten, as well as its meat, which is considered a delicacy in the Asian continent. According to U.N. officials, the number of trade pangolins has largely increased over the past few years. Between January and September of 2016, authorities have found more than 18,000 tons of pangolin scales over 19 countries.

Pangolins had been put on the Appendix II list of protected animals. However, this only included the Asian species of the animal and ignored the African species, which translated into an increasing number of African pangolins being shipped all over the world.

In CITIES, authorities voted to move the now endangered species to the Appendix I list and protect these animals from being killed and shipped for their consumption. Members of CITIES were seen showing stuffed animals of pangolins as a way of support.

“Hopefully this will be followed by increased resources and attention being devoted to saving this well armored but utterly defensive and wholly species,” said Jeff Flocken, who is the North American regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, to Reuters.

Source: BBC