March 3, 2009

Despite Trade Ban, Poachers Still Seek Pangolins in Southeast Asia

Pangolins in Southeast Asia are dwindling in numbers due to poaching activities, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Wildlife Enforcement Network said on Tuesday.

Poachers have long sought after the scaly anteaters for their meat, which is used for consumption. They also use their scales for traditional medicines.

"More than a 100 tons of smuggled pangolin meat heading to China was confiscated in the region last year but that is only 10 to 20 percent of the amount of Pangolin meat successfully smuggled into China," Chumphon Sukkaseam, a senior official with ASEAN told AFP.

"Smuggling will increase unless tough action is taken as pangolins now face the worst threat from smugglers and poachers in Southeast Asia," he said.

Despite a trade ban on international pangolin meat trade, poachers continue to hunt the mammals, which are indigenous to the jungles of Indonesia, parts of Malaysia and areas of southern Thailand

"The main route for smuggling Pangolins is from Indonesia to Malaysia and then through Thailand to Laos or Vietnam which border China," said Chumphon, acknowledging issues with porous borders between the countries, insufficient information exchange on cases and the small fines given to smugglers, AFP reported.

Last month, Singapore's Night Safari became home to two scaly anteaters, marking the first pangolin exhibit in the world.

"As part of our conservation efforts, Wildlife Reserves Singapore will be spearheading our research work on pangolins here, as very little is known about them worldwide. We feel that it is important to protect our native animal," said Fanny Lai, Group CEO Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Pangolins are protected under the UN's Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).


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