Pangolins win at CITES

Pangolins win at CITES
Wednesday, 28 September, 2016
Johannesburg, South Africa

Parties today at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP 17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg decided that the most illegally traded mammal in the world urgently needs protection from further over-exploitation. All eight pangolin species are being transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I – thus prohibiting any international commercial trade with pangolin parts.

“This decision gives real hope that extinction of pangolins may be prevented,” says Mark Hofberg, Assistant Campaigns Officer at IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). “The rate at which they are being killed is completely unsustainable and cruel. If nothing would be done, we could see these amazing creatures disappear within a generation..”

“Two separate decision were taken today one for Asian, and one for African. Between the two decisions the African decision was completely unanimous; and only one country – Indonesia – voted against the Asian proposal. This is a perfect example of when the international community can come together for a species that truly needs help, and enacts strong, global regulations that can make a real difference,” said Hofberg.

Pangolins are small to medium size, scale-covered mammals found throughout parts of Asia and Africa. There are a total of eight species, four in Asia and four in Africa. Pangolins are particularly sensitive to over-exploitation because their reproduction rate is very low. Furthermore, their primary predator defense – rolling into an impenetrable ball – makes it an easy catch for poachers.

Their scales are being used in traditional Asian medicine and their meat is a highly valued delicacy. Over a million pangolins have been taken from the wild and illegally traded in the past decade. As populations are disappearing in China and Vietnam, poachers turn to other parts of Southeast Asia and India and increasingly source animals from the African species.

The four Asian pangolin species have been assigned zero-export quotas in 2000, but it is nearly impossible for enforcers to distinguish which species loose scales belong to. To effectively combat the illegal trade it is therefore necessary to prohibit trade with all eight pangolin species.

“We are happy that the world has finally decided to pay attention to the plight of this little known and amazingly unique animal,” says Hofberg. “They are one of the most imperiled species on the planet and it is about time that we wake up and do something to save them.”

All pangolin species have been on Appendix II of Cites since 1994. In addition, pangolins are protected by national laws in most range countries but lack of enforcement and light penalties have undermined these laws in many nations. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists populations in China and Vietnam as “Critically Endangered”, the other two Asian species as “Endangered” and the four African species as “Vulnerable”.

Parties have a chance at the Plenary on the last day to call for a revote, but given that all the votes were won almost unanimously, there is very little possibility of that happening.

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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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