Pangolin Protection on Parade in South Africa

©Shutterstock  Pangolin Protection on Parade in South Africa
Thursday, 15 October, 2015
Cape Town, South Africa

As the world’s most trafficked creatures, pangolins and the need for their protection, have been in the spotlight in South Africa this week.

A first ever meeting of the African Pangolin Working Group, drew nearly 40 pangolin specialists from around the world – from scientists to rehabilitators, the NGO community and law enforcers – to mull over the threats to a creature more popularly known as a “scaly anteater.”

“At least one-million pangolins have been illegally traded in the past 10 years,” said Carson Barylak, representing IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) at the gathering. “This is thought to make them the world’s most trafficked animal.

“Increasingly African species are being caught for illegal trade, and sent off to countries like Vietnam and China where their scales are in demand for use in the traditional medicine. In the process they can be subjected to appalling cruelty.”

All eight pangolin species – pangolins are found in both Africa and Asia - are listed as vulnerable or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Little is known about the actual population status of the mostly nocturnal mammals whose scales are highly prized for their use in the manufacture of traditional medicines. The tough scales protect them from virtually all predators, except for humans.

Dr Ray Jansen, conference organizer and Professor at Tshwane University of Technology, commented: “This first meeting of pangolin experts and scientists from around the world has provided us with a unique opportunity to tap into unknown knowledge of pangolin behaviour, ecology and husbandry previously not known or shared.

“The conference was an undoubted success and opened new doors toward pangolin conservation.”

Barylak said IFAW planned to use new partnerships forged at the meeting to advance protection for pangolins wherever possible.

“Illegal trafficking of wildlife is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually. It ranks among damaging and dangerous global crimes such as trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.

“Whether it be an elephant dying for its ivory, a rhino for its horn, or a much lesser known creature like a pangolin, the killing and illegal trafficking of wildlife for profit, as for their parts for profit is unacceptable.

“IFAW is committed to helping find a solution to these crimes,” said Barylak.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.

The IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people. The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW’s digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at


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