Conduct Rigorous Investigations of the Black Market and Stop the Medicinal Pangolin Medicinal Market Survey Report 1.0 (I)
2019/8/9 11:43:00 本站

By / China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) Pangolin Protection Working Group

May 18th, 2015



·    Up to April 2015, the CBCGDF Pangolin Conservation Working Group found a large number of illegal sales situations of pangolin scales through field investigation in four Chinese medicinal materials trading markets. During this field investigation, 21 medicinal materials trading companies were visited, 11 of which (52.4%) sell pangolin scales, including processed parched pangolin scales (Chinese name: 炮山甲) and untreated pangolin scales. It also surveyed 7 pharmacies, all of which sell pangolin scales. Besides, some pharmaceutical stalls in markets also sell pangolin scales.

·    The working group has reported to the local Forestry Bureau and Food and Drug Administration and applied for government information publicity according to law, but only received a reply from Haozhou Municipal Forestry Bureau, and we have not received any update on it.

·    To ensure strict and effective protection, we call for the promotion of pangolins as first-level protection. The illegal sales of pangolin products should be strictly investigated and punished, and pangolin products should be removed from the Chinese pharmacopeia and stop to use pangolin for medicinal purpose.

The pangolin is under great threat. Photo credit: Internet

Background of the investigation

In July 2014, the IUCN Species Survival Commission officially adjusted the Chinese pangolins and Malayan pangolins from the endangered level to the critically endangered (CR) level, while the other six pangolin kinds were also identified as endangered. The pangolin, which was once common in southern China, has become the world's most threatened mammal by smuggling, under the dual threat of delicacy and medicinal myth.

An investigation report published in 2000 points out that the number of pangolins in China is about 64,000. Compared with that of the 1960s, the population has fallen by 88.88% to 94.12%. And pangolin only sparsely distributed in the border of Guangxi and Yunnan provinces, facing a high threat of extinction. According to the latest research in 2013, pangolin subspecies in Hainan island have become commercially extinct due to excessive poaching.

Pangolin is an endangered animal with timid but extremely tough character. They are poached, smuggled, sold, and skinned because its Chinese name means "burrowing through mountains". It is misbelieved to have the effect of unblocking the meridians and milk release, regarded as the first choice for the "puerperal period", and even be seen as a magical medicine for treating cancer. Some people eat pangolins to flaunt their riches as pangolin is becoming increasingly rare. The only way to obtain the large, protective scales covering the skin is to murder this creature, which is same as the cruel way to get ivory.

Relevant state departments have formulated regulations on pangolin protection and management. In 2007, for example, the State Forestry Administration of the People's Republic of China, the Ministry of Health and other five departments jointly publish the notice on strengthening the protection of rare snake resources of saiga, pangolin, and rare snake resources and standardizing the medical management of its products. All pangolin scales in China are limited to designated hospitals for clinical use and Chinese patent drug production and shall not be sold by retail. Pharmaceutical wholesalers can only sell scales to Chinese patent medicine manufacturers and designated hospitals. The procurement of scales by Chinese patent medicine manufacturers and designated hospitals should be provided according to the plan, and at the same time, the packaging of the smallest selling unit must be marked with "Special Mark for the Operation and Management of Wild Animals in China" before entering the market.

In the Chinese pharmacopeia, pangolins are described to cure a variety of ills. Amongst these are excessive nervousness, latex obstructed, hemiplegia, epistaxis, malarial fever, and deafness. However, the specific ingredient of pangolin scales is unknown, and no scientific research can prove that pangolin has medicinal value. Therefore, medicinal properties of pangolin remain to be confirmed.

Besides, the pangolin is under second-class state protection. The procedures for the application for a special license for hunting or catching it are examined and approved by provincial forestry departments, a practice which lacks the unified management from the state level. Several media have disclosed the illegal sale of pangolin scales made by some hospitals and pharmacies. A special investigation of pangolin market is necessary for a comprehensive understanding of pangolin medicinal purpose and the implementation of relevant policies.


Field Investigation

The investigators visited four medicinal materials markets, including Oriental Medicine City in Anguo City, Hebei Province, the Traditional Chinese Medicine in Yuzhou City, Henan Province, Kangmei Huatuo International Medicine City in Haozhou City, Anhui Province, and Old Medicinal Materials City in Haozhou City. And in the medicinal market, they selected some stores which sell wild animal products, like pilous antler, or larger stores, and asked the staff if pangolins were on sale.

Part of the medicinal materials markets investigated. Photo credit: Internet

Among the 21 stores surveyed, 11 stores (52.4 %) said they sold pangolin scales. Besides, 7 Chinese pharmacies have been found to sell pangolins. The selling price of parched pangolin is about 2,600 to 3,200 yuan per kilogram. The price in the pharmacy is around 6 to 12 yuan per gram. The scales are from Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces.

1-The Oriental Medicine City in Anguo City, Hebei Province

In the Oriental Medicine City of Anguo City, investigators visited 11 drugstores, and 6 of them (54.5%) sold pangolin scales. Only one pharmaceutical company, Hebei Hancaotang Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, put up a poster of pangolin. The pangolin scales sold in its subordinate drug store have the "Special Mark for the Operation and Management of Wild Animals in China" on the package. But without the pangolin operation and utilization permit, purchasers can obtain pangolin scales by providing shop assistant with pharmaceutical enterprises certificate. The loophole in supervision may result in pangolin scales flowing into the black market.

A poster advertising pangolin scales are put up in the entrance of Hancaotang Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd photo credit: CBCGDF

At the same time, the remaining 5 companies also do not have formal packaging, and some use plastic bags or other products packaging, printed with Chinese herbal medicine pieces to replace.

Besides, many drugstores can buy raw scales, that is, untreated pangolin scales. Accidentally, a trader who came to buy the goods said that he had bought 70 kilograms of pangolin scales from a policeman in Anguo City three years ago. Although the authenticity of this statement needs to be verified, it also reveals the existence of scales involved in the trade of illegal wildlife products.

2-The Traditional Chinese Medicine Market in Yuzhou City, Henan Province

In the Yuzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine market, most of the drugstores were closed. Over the last two months, the Food and Drug Administration frequently come to check fake medicines and sealed-up a lot of medicinal materials, so many shops are closed to stay away from troubles. These days, they're sold only through acquaintances, and they don't sell fresh faces, especially if they have pangolins.

Most TCM stores are closed. Photo credit: CBCGDF

3- The Kangmei Traditional Chinese Medicine Market in Haozhou City, Anhui Province

A traditional Chinese medicine enterprise based in the medicine market in Haozhou City, Anhui Province sells processed pangolin scales and pangolin specimen. The working group has reported to the local forestry police. When being asked about the pangolin medicine, the shop assistant the pharmacy of Huqiao pharmaceutical Group expressed that there was no stockpile. Only after about 4 hours, investigators of the working group received a call from the shop assistant, being told that there was remaining inventory with the price of 2,900 RMB per kilo.

Original Chinese article:

By / Zheng Nanyu, Wang Yanqing