Chinese Pangolins Have Been Functionally Extinct in Mainland China, and Multi-Sectoral Efforts to Rescue as Much as Possible May be Able to Redeem
2019/6/10 16:40:00 本站

Chinese pangolins have been widely distributed in the southern provinces of China, but since the 1980s, the number of their wild population has fallen sharply. As of now, Chinese pangolins have become functionally extinct in mainland China.


According to China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF)'s field research in the traditional distribution areas of Chinese pangolins in Guangxi, Jiangxi, Yunnan, Hunan, Anhui, Guangdong, etc., and combined with CBCGDF's pangolin protection project partners, volunteers' infrared cameras recorded data in the field, as well as the field investigation, CBCGDF found that in the past three years, only 11 Chinese pangolins were effectively recorded and verified (including one in Hunan, one in Zhejiang, one in Guangdong, three in Anhui, two in Jiangxi, three in the Department of Forestry of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region’s Rescue Center), and the presence of wild populations of Chinese pangolins has not been detected in mainland China for a long time. At present, except for the 15,000-20,000 Chinese pangolins in Taiwan, no other parts of China have seen or only seen the existence of sporadic individuals of Chinese pangolins. Therefore, it can be determined that the population of Chinese pangolins has been extremely rare in China's mainland, showing a state of functional extinction. At the same time, in view of the rampant illegal smuggling of pangolin activities, it is not excluded that the individual Chinese Pangolins, which are scattered and visible, are derived from the possibility of smuggling.


What is even more worrying is that by interviewing the 20 to 70-year-old population in the traditional Chinese pangolin’s distribution areas in mainland China, the feedbacks include: In the past 30 years, they have never seen Chinese pangolins; Most of the young groups born in the 80s and 90s do not have any knowledge of the pangolin species. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) contains data on Chinese pangolins, the most recent record from today, is an individual dead Chinese pangolin discovered in 1984.


From the perspective of ecological function, Chinese pangolin is the natural enemy of termites. In China, Chinese pangolin is known as the “Forest Guardian”: a Chinese pangolin can eat about 7 million termites and ants each year. In a forest of about 350 acres, as long as there is a Chinese pangolin, it can effectively control the spread of termite populations, so that the ecology of the forest can be effectively protected from termite damage. In Taiwan, the population of Chinese pangolin is 1.5-2 million. On average, every 2 square meters, there is a Chinese pangolin that survives, and the ecological function can fully play its role. However, in the mainland, because the wild population of Chinese pangolin has almost disappeared, the ecological function has also been basically lost. Correspondingly, China's current methods of combating ant hazards rely mainly on chemical means. Although chemical control has effectively controlled the excessive reproduction of termites to a certain extent, it has further led to the breakage of the food chain of pangolins, and also has a serious impact on the biodiversity of forests.


Pangolins breed slowly, usually mating in April and May each year. Their pregnancy duration is around five to seven months. Only give birth once each year, and only bear one baby each time. Therefore, Chinese pangolin is difficult to restore the population through natural reproduction after the population situation has dropped drastically, and it is easy to cause complete extinction due to factors such as disturbance of human activities. What is even more worrying is that humans' research on Chinese pangolins is still very limited. So far, scientific and effective artificial breeding has not been realized. This has made the change of the functional extinction of Chinese pangolins full of difficulties and challenges.


The main cause of the functional extinction of Chinese pangolins is human induced, in addition to disturbance and destruction of habitat, the killing caused by the artificial demand for the medicinal and edible effects of Chinese pangolins scales is also an important reason for the sharp decline in the number of Chinese pangolins. Pangolins' scales have been included in traditional Chinese medicine. Although they belong to the bottom products medicine, many people still blindly believe in the effects of pangolins from the rumors about pangolins and on the Internet. According to China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), around the 1960s, the number of China's pangolins captured in one year is about 170,000 to 180,000. Since the early 1980s, the population of pangolins has begun to decline and has intensified. In the following decade, it has dropped by at least 80%. By the end of the 1990s, it was difficult to see the Chinese pangolins in most areas, which eventually led to the commercial extinction of Chinese pangolins.


However, market demand has not been curbed by the commercial extinction of Chinese pangolins. In recent years, the trade of illegally smuggling pangolins has become increasingly serious. The eight species of pangolins in the world are still falling sharply due to illegal hunting and smuggling. In 2016, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) also listed all eight pangolins in the world in Appendix I, on a global scale. The international pangolin trade is prohibited. However, smuggling pangolins are still rampant in the world. In many countries, law enforcement is not enough. Most of the pangolin trade has violated CITES and the laws of many countries. According to the data from the Report on "A counting year for pangolins" in 2018 of CBCGDF, only in 2018, China's six customs seized a total of 38.14 tons of smuggled pangolin scales, which means that about 60,000 pangolins were killed, most of which are African pangolins, and these pangolin scales are not the types of pangolin scales that TCM lists as medicinal.


From commercial extinction to functional extinction, the environment faced by Chinese pangolins in mainland China is quite severe. China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) has established seven China Conservation Areas for pangolins (CCAfa) in China and pioneered the establishment of China's first pangolin rescue and rehabilitation field domestication center in Guangdong Province. And joint scientific research institutions to jointly carry out research on the rescue and protection of pangolins; at the same time, disseminate the correct concept of protecting pangolins through media reports and going into the campus, correct the public's misconceptions about the consumption and medicinal value of pangolins, and call on all sectors of society to jointly protect pangolins.


On the occasion of the announcement that Chinese pangolins has been functionally extinct in mainland China, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), an NGO that has been long-term committed to biodiversity conservation in China, particularly in the field of pangolin conservation, has paid many innovative exploration efforts and tried different methods. To rescue the pangolin species, CBCGDF now urgently proposes the following further recommendations: 1. All parties involved in the protection of pangolins, including various stakeholders, should take urgent action to protect Chinese pangolins and other types of pangolins so that to form a multi-party and universal participation protection model; 2. To scientifically carry out the introduction of Chinese pangolin species in mainland China, and simultaneously realize the recovery of Chinese pangolins in the wild population of the mainland as soon as possible; 3. All parties will go all out to form the core strength of the recovery of the pangolins’ wild population, and carry out the domestication and scientific tracking of the Chinese pangolins received by different breeding institutions, rescue centers and scientific research institutions, and put them on the agenda. And establish a scientific system for the rescue, rehabilitation, field domestication, and wild-type tracking of pangolins; 4. Further systematically conduct a background survey of Chinese pangolins, Malayan pangolins, and Indian pangolins in mainland China.


It is only possible to promote the protection of Chinese pangolins quickly, scientifically, systematically and fully, it is possible to redeem its already functional extinction in Mainland China.


(Photo credit: CBCGDF)

By / Niu Jingmei