A new TRAFFIC rapid analysis of confiscations in the region, released today on World Pangolin Day, examined 1,141 seizure incidents involving both African and Asian pangolin species in Asia.
Pangolins are seized whole, dead or alive, and also in pieces and therefore actual volumes could be higher as the weights of seizures are not always made public.
The scales, widely used in traditional medicine, accounted for the majority of seizures in Asia.
More than half of the weight of pangolins and parts seized in Asia came from Africa, indicating the continued capture of pangolins in Africa to meet Asian demand.
Pangolin traffickers in Asia are relentless, and the damage done isn’t just to Asia’s four endangered pangolin species. Illegal trade and an insatiable demand for pangolins continue to deplete wild pangolin populations in Africa as well.
Ramacandra Wong, TRAFFIC Senior Analyst for Southeast Asia
The period from 2017 to 2019 saw some of the largest confiscations, mostly involving African pangolin scales. During this period, more than 609 confiscations took place in Asia, representing the seizure of 244,600 kg of scales and 10,971 individual animals.
However, pangolin seizures have declined in recent years – from 2020 to 2021 – with some 233 recorded seizures involving 13,389kg of scales and 247 individual animals.
The decline is attributed to closures and disruptions to the movement of products in the global transportation system as a result of Covid-19, rather than the actual reduction in poaching levels.
“These lower foreclosure numbers should be treated with caution. They are transitory and as borders reopen and international trade resumes, so will traffic levels and hopefully detection levels,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
What remains crucial – and missing – is a crackdown on criminal groups and open wildlife markets that operate with impunity and hold consumers accountable for illegal purchases while working to reduce consumer demand at the same time. .
Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia
Evidence of large-scale pangolin seizures since 2020 continues, particularly from shipments seized in Africa en route to Asia, demonstrating that raw pangolin scales continue to be sought in Asia to meet demand.
TRAFFIC data showed that 91% of the total volume seized in Asia since 2015 came from mainland China, Viet Nam, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia and Singapore.
While East and Southeast Asia have long been part of the problem as a source, transit and destination, India is seeing an increase in poaching and illegal trade.
Seizures from India, although not the highest in volume, were the largest in Asia between 2015 and 2021. The frequency of pangolin seizures has increased in recent years. Almost 70% of India’s 287 seizures took place between 2019 and 2021.
This is extremely concerning and if this level of poaching and trade continues, we may well find the Indian pangolin Manis crassicaudata joining the ranks of its other Asian counterparts as a critically endangered species.
Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC India
The other three Asian pangolin species are already listed as critically endangered due to commercial threats.
Since 2019, all species of pangolins have been banned from international trade. Despite this, criminal networks continue to source and traffic pangolins in alarming numbers.
TRAFFIC calls on Asian governments to find the will and the means to stay ahead of poachers, traffickers, open markets and unrelenting consumer demand to give pangolins a fighting chance.