From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Pangolin
Mains level : Illict wildlife trade and its prevention
China accorded the pangolin the highest level of protection and removed the scales of the endangered mammal from its list of approved traditional medicines amid links between wild meat and the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Practice question for mains:
Q. What are Zoonotic Diseases? Discuss the hazards of importing zoonotic diseases through wildlife trade.
IUCN status: Endangered
- India is home to two species of pangolin.
- While the Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is found in northeastern India, the Indian Pangolin is distributed in other parts of the country as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
- Both these species are protected and are listed under the Schedule I Part I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- Commonly known as ‘scaly anteaters’, the toothless animals are unique, a result of millions of years of evolution.
- Pangolins evolved scales as a means of protection. When threatened by big carnivores like lions or tigers they usually curl into a ball.
- The scales defend them against dental attacks from the predators.
Pangolin in China
- Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam.
- Their scales which are made of keratin, the same protein present in human nails — are believed to improve lactation, promote blood circulation, and remove blood stasis.
- These so-called health benefits are so far unproven.
What makes pangolins the most trafficked animals in the world?
- Their alleged health benefits in traditional Chinese medicines prompted a booming illicit export of scales from Africa over the past decade.
- Officials quote trafficking price of Pangolin and its scale anywhere between Rs 30,000 and Rs 1 crore for a single animal.
- Conservation of pangolins received its first shot in the arm when the 2017 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) enforced an international trade ban.
How will China’s decision impact pangolin trafficking?
- The immediate impact would be pangolin scales losing their legitimacy in traditional Chinese medicines. However, the history of the ban on wildlife trade in China is not encouraging.
- The continued availability of tiger bone wine — believed to cure a host of conditions ranging from dysentery to rheumatism — despite its ban on tiger products in 1993. The price of elephant ivory plummeted by two-thirds after China banned it.
- India, where the trade largely remains local, has been registering a decline from before China’s ban.
- The trade-in pangolin scales are already showing a decreasing trend in India and the only trade is the trade-in live animals by unorganised traders, who ask for a few crores for each live animal.