Listing pangolins under US Endangered Species Act

More than 26,000 pangolin products were imported in the United States between 2004 and 2013. Photo: © Tikki Hywood Trust For The HSUSIf you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably never heard of pangolins.

Yet around the world, they are facing an unprecedented crisis. These small-to-medium sized African and Asian mammals are defined by their horny overlapping scales, a small head with an elongated snout, a long sticky tongue, and a thick tapering tail.

Pangolins also hold the unfortunate title of most trafficked mammal in the world, with nearly one million illegally traded over the past decade.

Sought after for their meat and scales, which are believed to have medicinal properties in East Asia, pangolin populations are under immense pressure. While most illegally sourced pangolins are sold in China and Vietnam, American demand also contributes to the crisis. In fact, more than 26,000 pangolin products were imported in the United States between 2004 and 2013.

READ: Pangolin Range States Meeting: Protecting the World’s Most-Trafficked Mammal

To combat this crisis, IFAW, along with a coalition of partners, filed a petition with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list all pangolins as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Currently only one of eight pangolin species is listed as Endangered under the Act: the African Temminck’s ground pangolin.

Expanding federal protection would prohibit the import and sale of pangolins and their parts in the U.S. and raise global awareness about the pangolin’s plight.

In addition, the coalition filed a petition under the “Similarity of Appearance” provision of the Endangered Species Act. Essentially – since all pangolins closely resemble each other and law enforcement officials have difficulty distinguishing them – a successful Similarity of Appearance provision would elevate all pangolins’ protection status to that of the Temminck’s Ground species, effectively banning the trade and import of all pangolins in the United States.

The pangolin’s numbers are rapidly dwindling. An Endangered Species Act listing is an important and necessary step to end the U.S.’s role in declining pangolin populations and would set an example for the rest of the world.

Until then, we remain complicit in this truly unique species’ decline.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
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Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
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Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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