Buy pangolin wine, medicine online? Study Says You’re Driving Most Trafficked Mammals To Extinction

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New Delhi: Pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammals, are being ‘driven to the brink of extinction’ by a booming illegal online trade that spans Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States, according to a study by the Geneva-based NGO Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

The study highlights how the exploitation of loopholes in international law has led to an exponential increase in the illegal trade in pangolin-derived products via online platforms. According to the study, customers are oblivious to the fact that products for sale, including Chinese medicine, wine and incense, are derived from the scales and meat of pangolins.

Trade and international exchanges of pangolins captured in their natural habitat and parts of pangolins, has been ruled illegal by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of 184 members in 2017.

According to the study, published in July 2022, the Indian pangolin falls into the ‘endangered’ category of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). red list endangered species, while the Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin fall into the category of “critically endangered”.

One of the authors, Théo Clément, held a virtual discussion on Wednesday to analyze the conclusions of the study.

The pangolin is an insectivorous mammal that resembles an anteater or an armadillo. When approached by predators, they “immediately curl up into a tight ball and use their sharp tails to defend themselves”.

For decades, pangolins have been a source of food and medicine for people in Africa and Asia, particularly in China. However, demand for their scales – traditionally used for medicinal purposes in Vietnam and China – has grown up significantly around the world in recent years.


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The authors analyzed 924 online advertisements

For detecting illegal online business patterns, study authors monitored 924 online advertisements in English and Mandarin for products derived from the pangolin. They found that English-language websites were more likely to conceal the use of pangolin scales in their products.

Posted between April 2021 and October 2021, 873 of these advertisements used simplified Chinese, while 51 were in English and targeted customers outside of China. Of the 924 advertisements analyzed by the researchers, 881 were from mainland China, 16 from the United States and eight from Hong Kong.

Highlighting a clear violation of the 2017 CITES Ordinance, the study found that websites selling pangolin-derived products in English even offer to ship the products worldwide.

“Consumers could often be in a position where they are unable to make informed decisions when purchasing pangolin-derived products, could potentially be tricked by “agent” websites into consuming remedies containing pangolin scales, pangolin and/or could easily import these remedies from overseas,” the study states.

He also found that most websites fail to mention the origins of pangolin scales used in products offered to customers.

Most Advertised Drugs

Drugs were the most commonly marketed pangolin-derived products available online and accounted for 870 of the 924 advertisements analyzed in the study.

Among pangolin-derived medical products, pills, capsules and tablets were advertised most often, followed by medicinal creams, ointments, powders and plasters.

Medicinal wine made from pangolin-derived products was the second most traded product online with 25 ads, followed by raw scales with 12 ads and frankincense with four ads.

“Although pangolins are poached for different reasons, depending on the local context and prevailing consumption patterns, evidence indicates that the majority of international pangolin trafficking over the past five years has involved African pangolins,” the report said. study.

(Editing by Amrtansh Arora)


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