Lonely Planet Writer

Endangered pangolins to be protected under new wildlife legislation

The pangolin, a scaly creature declared to be the world’s most illegally trafficked animal, have been given new protections at an international convention on wildlife last week.

The international trade of all eight species of the animal, which lives in Africa and Asia, was banned at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is currently on in Johannesburg, South Africa until 5 October. CITES “creates guidelines surrounding trade regulations which inform governments on the dangers that plants and animals face to their health and conservation, if they are traded”, and the 182 countries represented at the meeting agreed on the ban.

Long-tailed pangolin, Manis tetradactyla, Congo, DRC, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Long-tailed pangolin, Manis tetradactyla, Congo, DRC, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Image by Mint Images – Frans Lanting/Getty Images

The animal’s scales are in demand as a traditional medicine and the meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world; however, the animal is increasingly endangered. Adding to conservationists’ concerns, the animals only produce one offspring each year. According to the World Wildlife Fund, between 2011 and 2013, about 117,000 to 234,000 pangolins were killed for their meat and scales. Now, all legal trade of the animal will end and existing protections will be strengthened. The animal’s new designation by CITES – as an Appendix I listing for all eight species – will lead to greater enforcement.

There was also good news at the CITES conference for other species, such as South Africa’s Cape Mountain Zebra, which was deemed to no longer be threatened with extinction, after conservation efforts increased the animal numbers from less than 100 in the 1990s to more than 5000 in 2016. The animal’s new status with CITES is “Appendix II”, which means that while the species may not be threatened with extinction it “may become so unless trade is closely controlled,” reports iAfrica.com.