World Animal Protection calls for total ban on wildlife use in traditional medicine to save pangolins

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Pangolins are nocturnal, shy, burrowing mammals covered in tough, overlapping scales. They are found in Africa and Asia.

Conservationists are pushing for sanctions against the use of wildlife traditional medicines citing massive decline of pangolins over poaching.

World Animal Protection indicates that pangolins remain the most trafficked mammal in the world surpassing elephants and rhinoceroses.

Available data indicates that pangolins are poached for their scales and meat for use in traditional medicines even though there is no scientific proof that their body parts have any medicinal value.

A recent report by World Animal Protection indicated that more than a million pangolins are believed to have been killed in the last decade alone and traded primarily for traditional medicine.

Between 2010 and 2015 for example, the World Animal Protection indicated that there were 1,270 pangolin seizures in 67 countries and territories across the world.

This involved 120 tonnes of body parts, whole animals and an additional 46,000 individual carcasses.

The report documents the cruel and gruesome ways pangolins are poached and slaughtered; they are hunted and cruelly slaughtered for their scales and meat.

Ms Edith Kabesiime, Campaigns Manager at World Animal Protection, says pangolins endure unimaginable suffering as they are smoked and dragged out of their trees and burrows, bludgeoned with clubs and arrows and then boiled, sometimes alive for their scales.

“The process of digging out can last hours, subjecting the animals to many hours of stress and terror,” she said.

World Animal Protection now calls for key among others, strong enforcement of national and international laws to protect them, investment in and promotion of herbal and synthetic medicine, combined and coordinated efforts by governments, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the traditional Asian medicine practitioners particularly in China and Vietnam.

Others include supporting for alternative livelihoods and education within communities where pangolins exist and removal of pangolins from the definitive traditional medicine handbook for everyone working in the industry.

Monetary value of pangolins

A kilogramme of pangolins costs $3,000 (about Shs10m) meaning that in total the couple would fetch $70,000 (about Shs250m)

Between two and three pangolins have to be killed to harvest a kilogramme of its scales meaning that Nwoya couple had to have killed at least 60 pangolins to raise the 25 kilogrammes they were arrested in possession of.

Facts about pangolins

Pangolins are nocturnal animals found in Africa and Asia. They are shy, burrowing mammals that are covered in tough, overlapping scales.

They are very important in controlling the ecosystem.  It is estimated that an adult pangolin can consume more than 70 million insects annually.

Their constant burrowing habit also aids in the decomposition cycle and vegetation growth and their burrows are also occupied by many other species.

They are particularly vulnerable to over exploitation due to their very low reproductive output, giving birth to one, and rarely two, offspring annually, and have a generation length of between seven and nine years, depending on the species.

This, of course, means their ability to recover from such high levels of poaching is almost impossible. Their ability to quickly roll into a tight ball when under threat also makes them more vulnerable to poachers.

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