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Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 152511793

Saving Pangolins by Reducing Consumer Demand in Vietnam and China

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 152511793) - Chinese Pangolin - Awarded $12,000 on January 16, 2016

WildAid’s mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand and providing comprehensive marine protection. WildAid is the only organization to focus exclusively on reducing demand for endangered species products by targeting consumers with engaging public service announcements and education initiatives. We focus on Asia, where demand for these products is highest, and use sophisticated, culturally-appropriate and compelling 30-second public service announcements featuring over 100 of the world's biggest stars to deliver the message: “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

An estimated one million pangolins have been taken from the wild in the past decade for their meat and scales, making them the most heavily trafficked wild mammal in the world. Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in Asia, while scales are used in traditional medicine and falsely believed to cure ailments from arthritis to cancer. 

The Chinese Pangolin population fell by over 94% in China and its border regions since the 1960s. In 2000, 25,000-50,000 remained, but populations in Guangdong and Hunan provinces have since dropped to as low as 10% of that estimate. In response to these declines, demand shifted toward the Sunda Pangolin. However, the Sunda Pangolin has suffered an ~80% decline over the last 21 years primarily due to hunting for medicinal purposes. As these populations decline, pangolins are sourced from the Philippines, India and, increasingly, from Africa to meet Asia's demand. All eight are threatened: Chinese and Sunda pangolins are classified as Critically Endangered, the Indian and Philippine as Endangered, and all African species as Vulnerable.

Vietnam and China's rapidly emerging middle-class is believed to be driving the illegal trade. Pangolin meat has become a luxury item and status symbol. Meanwhile, people spend their life savings on scales, hoping to cure their ailments. People lack knowledge about pangolins and are largely unaware of the poaching crisis impacting populations locally and throughout the world.

Through this project, we will educate the public, prioritizing China and Vietnam - the largest consumer markets for pangolin products - about pangolins and the threats they face, while disproving the purported health benefits of their scales, meat, fetuses and blood. We will strengthen capacity of local enforcement agencies through training seminars and the establishment of wildlife trafficking detector dog programs at key ports. We will build a groundswell of public and political support for pangolin conservation through social media and traditional media campaigning, and in doing so, make the consumption of their meat and scales socially unacceptable. 

Actions to educate the public about pangolins, threats they face, and impacts of the illegal trade on global pangolin populations, while debunking the purported medicinal value of their scales, fetuses and blood, will reduce pangolin product demand in the two countries where it's highest. Eliminating the main markets for meat and scales, and subsequently profits from the illegal trade, will remove poachers' incentive to poach pangolins. By eradicating the biggest threat to pangolins' survival, we will give Asian and African pangolins the best chance at recovering. Once poaching ends, experts expect populations will rebound and stabilize.

Project 152511793 location - China, Asia