VICTORY: All 8 pangolin species get protection they need at CITES

This vote brings them all on equal footing for protection under the CITES appendices, because it is practically impossible for enforcement officials to figure out to which species loose scales belong.

A round of applause rose up through the main chamber when the decision was announced. The Parties of CITES had weighed four proposals to protect four Asian and four African species of pangolins, and chose to give them the strongest possible global protections from trade. Pangolins are the most illegally traded mammal in the world.  Today’s decisions secure a much coveted conservation victory that IFAW has been championing for years.

The decisions were reached at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP 17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Johannesburg, South Africa, and as a result, the international commercial trade of all eight species of pangolin and pangolin parts is officially prohibited.

The deliberations started with the three Asian pangolin species proposals, two of which passed without opposition, and only one of which – Sunda and Chinese pangolins – required a vote.  The outcome was overwhelmingly supportive – with only one country (Indonesia) voting against it.  This seemed to have set a mood for the room, and two hours later when the group reconvened, the African pangolin proposal passed without opposition. Parties have a chance at the Plenary on the last day to call for a revote, but given the overwhelming support, we can’t imagine this happening.

All pangolin species have been on Appendix II of CITES since 1994, however, all trade in Asian pangolins has been banned. Additionally, pangolins are protected by national laws in most range countries.  But in numerous range, transit and demand countries, there has been a severe lack of enforcement, and light penalties have undermined these laws in many nations as well.

Today’s vote brings all eight species on equal footing for protection under the CITES appendices, which is critical because it is practically impossible for enforcement officials to figure out to which species are which when they are in their end form as loose scales or raw meat.

This is an incredible victory and many thanks to all who have put in the hard work to make this happen.  While it is not the final solution for the threats pangolins are facing, it is an absolutely necessary step in saving this wholly unique and critically imperilled animal.



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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
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Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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